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GWRDC launches 'grassroots' regional extension program

Grassroots extension will take on a new meaning for grapegrowers this year with the launch of GWRDC Regional – a program developed by the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation to support the adoption of new and innovative viticultural practices at a regional level.

Being launched today in Orange by Senator for NSW Stephen Hutchins and GWRDC chairman, Dennis Mutton, the program will see the GWRDC partner with regional grape and wine bodies to help them develop individual extension and adoption plans, which will be targeted to meet the specific needs of each region.

The GWRDC is a statutory body, jointly funded by the Australian Government and industry, which supports the development of the grape and wine industries through research and development.

GWRDC Regional replaces the GWRDC’s two previous regional programs — Regional Innovation and Technology Adoption (RITA) and Regional Development Initiative (RDI).

Senator Hutchins said the Government recognised the importance of the grape and wine industries to regional jobs and economic growth.

“The Rudd Government will continue to invest in research and development to help these industries grow and be globally competitive,” Senator Hutchins said.

“This investment is even more important as the global financial crisis continues to affect Australia and economies around the world.”

GWRDC chairman Dennis Mutton said funding from GWRDC Regional would see research findings benefiting grape and wine producers through extension.

“GWRDC Regional was developed to ensure extension funds spent in regional areas achieve maximum impact for growers and for the region as a whole," Mutton said.

“Following a review of RITA and RDI last year, we found that regional extension funding was no longer being spent in the most effective way. Many projects were being run on an ad hoc basis rather than as part of a long term strategic plan.

“GWRDC Regional sees the regions taking responsibility for planning and generating local extension and adoption activities, rather than us.”

Approximately $725,000, or about 3–4% of GWRDC’s total funding pool will be set aside for GWRDC Regional each year. Funding is allocated through key regional bodies, who are responsible for administering the funding to activities included in their extension and adoption plans (see brochure).

Regions with the highest production (which therefore contribute higher statutory R&D levy payments) receive a greater proportion of available funding. Smaller regions are clustered together to allow a practical amount of funding to be provided for extension and adoption activities.

Regional bodies will submit a three-year strategic extension and adoption plan to the GWRDC, along with an annual operational plan indicating the activities to be conducted in the coming year.

Once the regional plan is accepted then each region will undertake the activities specified within the plan, essentially it will be driven by and for industry representatives and local growers.

“We fully expect that once the plans are in place we will see trends developing that are common to all regions,” Mutton said. “Naturally issues like water management will be important for many growers across Australia.

“We will hold an annual meeting and invite a representative from every region so that we can have a better national outlook.

“The most important aspect of the new funding arrangements is that adoption activities that are only relevant to a particular region will be conducted through GWRDC Regional (such as salinity management on the Limestone Coast or Langhorne Creek).

“In contrast, adoption activities that are of national significance will feed into our Innovators Network of grower liaison officers, viticulturists and advisers who will provide a conduit for the delivery of national extension and adoption priorities that emerge from GWRDC Regional.

“We will be allocating a GWRDC Program Manager to each of these regions to liaise with regional groups and they will also support the Innovators Network,” said Mutton.

A final call for RITA applications closes on 6 February 2009. For more information about GWRDC Regional see the information brochure attached or visit www.gwrdc.com.au

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