AFTER two long years of being on call "24/7" Stanthorpe's Brent Finlay is stepping down from his position at the helm of one of agriculture's most powerful industry groups.
The AgForce president will hand over the reins to Emerald-based grain grower and cattleman Ian Burnett this month.
This edition the Granite Belt woolgrower spoke with the Bush Tele about the trials and triumphs of his time at the top and his plans for the future.
While he explained he had opted not to stand for re-election for family reasons, he stressed he "still had a lot to offer the rural industry".
He said he was proud of what he and the AgForce team had accomplished over a two-year period punctuated by floods, cyclones and the live cattle crisis.
For his first six months in the job he was dealing with a string of natural disasters, including floodwater through AgForce's Brisbane office, followed by the live export collapse.
The events equated to seemingly endless media queries for the Southern Downs landholder as he explained to the public the "devastating impact on rural business".
"I am proud of what AgForce did and how we handled what was a very trying time," Mr Finlay said.
He is also proud of how the organisation has shifted in response to industry issues under his leadership.
"It has definitely been a team effort and I am in debt to the staff, who have worked alongside me," Mr Finlay said.
"But, if I had to list some of the major accomplishments over the past two years, improvements to land access framework would be right up there."
Mr Finlay said more than 2200 landholders had participated in AgForce workshops, designed to promote understanding of landholder rights in coal seam gas negotiations.
"Co-existence between mining companies and landholders is an ongoing challenge," he said.
"But we have to find ways to work with these companies, because the fact is they operate in the same landscape we do.
"I believe organisations like AgForce, as well as formalising the framework for land access, have gone some way to ensuring companies treat landholders with respect."
Mr Finlay also listed increasing public and government awareness about the wild dog issue as another pos
itive of his time at the helm.
"We have worked hard to get this issue on the radar and I remain committed to supporting those in the rural industry, who continued to battle wild dogs.
"Over the past six months we have seen sectors of the beef industry come on board as they realise wild dogs are not just a sheep sector problem.
"In fact wild dogs are now a significant peri-urban issue as well.
"So we need to continue to push for all landholders, both public and private, working together to control wild dogs."
Mr Finlay said he was also proud of how AgForce had lobbied for better conditions for those with leasehold land rent agreements, as well as those struggling to overcome the impact of natural disasters.
"My plan was always to try to leave the industry in a better place than when I came in as president," he said.
"I am passionate about agriculture and with an amazing team I feel I have made some positive changes."
But he leaves the top job with genuine concerns about rural enterprises.
"A lot of agricultural businesses are very fragile at the moment," Mr Finlay said.
"They went from drought to natural disaster and, while many have had two good seasons now, it is not enough.
"Rural people are tired and many are fearful of what will happen next."
Yet he said the reality was demand for red meat and grain was strong and the long term outlook for many other commodities was also positive.
"Agriculture needs to be profitable so we can attract young people back to the rural sector."
The articulate agricultural leader officially steps down from the role of AgForce president on November 28.
After that he plans a "much needed" overseas trip with his family before celebrating Christmas at his Stanthorpe property, Cooinda.
"My family has done a great job in my absence running the property, so much so that I am not even sure they need me," he laughed.
"But I am confident they'll find me something to do."
In the meantime he assures the country's agricultural sector he "definitely" still has something to offer the rural industry.
"I am definitely up for a new challenge.
"Whatever's next I think you have to be committed to doing your best and approaching life with enthusiasm."
After two years...
Stanthorpe wool grower Brent Finlay hands over the job of AgForce president to Emerald-based grain grower and cattleman Ian Burnett this month.
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