Fiona Simson departs NFF to represent Aussie farmers on global stage

After seven-years of transformative leadership, the first female President in the 40-year history of Australia’s National Farmers’ Federation has stepped down from the role to become a Director of the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) and its Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) representative.

Ms Fiona Simson, a farmer from NSW’s Liverpool Plains and a staunch advocate for the nation’s primary producers and for rural and regional communities, will continue to represent the interests of Australian farmers via the WFO and through her roles on the Boards of various agriculture-related organisations.

These include her ongoing roles as Chair of Future Food Systems; and as Chair (for a second term) of the Commission for International Agricultural Research, which provides expert strategic advice about how Australia can best contribute to agricultural research and development programs worldwide through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

On 24 October 2024, her penultimate day as President of Australia’s peak farming body, Ms Simson gave an impassioned address to Australia’s National and Rural Press Clubs in which she spoke about her proudest achievements as NFF President, and the challenges – local and global – that lie ahead.

Ms Simson’s address covered some notable gains for Australia’s farm sector under her leadership, notably in relation to sustainability and innovation, the changing role of women in ag, the NFF’s push to incentivise young people to choose agrifood-related careers, and her passion for connecting rural producers with urban consumers.

“But while, as I’ve outlined, we’ve come an incredible distance as an industry on so many fronts, some things never change, nor would we want them to,” Ms Simson said. “One of those things is the need for the farmers’ voice – the farmers’ perspective – to be heard in the national dialogue.

“I’ve always been incredibly proud to represent the farmers’ perspective,” she said.

Read the transcript of Ms Simson’s full speech.

A new leadership for NFF

Ms Simson’s term as NFF President officially ended at the conclusion of the NFF’s Annual General M Meeting on 25 October 2023, during which the organisation elected its next President: Victorian grain and livestock producer David Jochinke.

Hailing from Murra Warra in western Victoria, Mr Jochinke has served as Vice President of the NFF since 2017. He was also President of the Victorian Farmers’ Federation from 2016 until 2020.

John Hassall, a farmer from East Pingelly in Western Australia was elected to the role of NFF Vice President.

They were joined by Queensland cotton producer Hamish McIntyre, who was elected a Director of the NFF Board.

Incoming President David Jochinke expressed his gratitude to the NFF membership for their support.

“I want to thank the members for trusting me to lead the NFF at such an important moment,” he said. “Australian agriculture has so much opportunity ahead of it as we continue striving for our $100 billion vision.

“I look forward to working hard for farmers across Australia to give them a say on the issues facing the sector.”

Mr Jochinke also paid tribute to outgoing NFF President Fiona Simson for her years of service to the sector.

“Fiona leaves an incredible legacy that will resonate for years to come,” he said.

“She’s left nothing on the table, and her considered, collaborative and engaging leadership has left farmers everywhere in a far stronger position.”

David Jochinke will make his first address tomorrow, 9.50am at the NFF National Conference in Canberra. Future Food Systems’ General Manager Mr Anthony Battaglia will be there to keep us informed.

Stay tuned.

Lead image: Ms Fiona Simson, outgoing National Farmers’ Federation President, Chair of the Boards of Future Food Systems and of the Commisson for International Agricultural Researrch, and the new Oceania representative for the World Farmers’ Organisation. Credit: National Farmers’ Federation