After a long-running industry restructure process which culimated late last year, a national board of directly-elected cattle producer representatives is now charged with providing leadership and direction for the Australian grassfed beef cattle industry.
The inaugural Cattle Australia board is made up of seven representatives elected by its members, with a further two skills-based directors yet to be appointed by the board.
In the first in a series of profiles, Beef Central is asking each Cattle Australia director about why they stood for the national board, what they see as key issues confronting Australian cattle producers and their throughts on how the future of the Australian beef cattle industry currently stands.
This week we profile Qld producer Adam Coffey.
Region: North Australia Beef Research Council
What is your background in the Australian beef industry?
My wife Jacynta and I own and operate a 2500-hectare beef cattle business in central Queensland, with our two boys Will and Sam. We run a time-controlled grazing enterprise and focus hard on improving the productivity and the ecological health of our land.
I grew up in Tasmania and travelled around for a few years, holding various livestock positions throughout New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and southern WA.
Following this I spent some ten years in the Northern Territory and WA’s Kimberley region working on and managing breeding and backgrounding operations focused around the live export market. Prior to this I studied and graduated from Marcus Oldham College in 2005 and became a Nuffield Scholar in 2016, studying intensification and diversification of extensive Australian beef cattle operations.
Jacynta and I realised our l dream of owning and operating our own business in 2016 through hard work and taking advantage of opportunities. A key to our success has been the people and partnerships we’ve found along the way in our great industry, who recognised what we were trying to achieve and supported us in various ways.
Why did you stand for the board of Cattle Australia?
Over the years I’ve become gradually more involved in industry representation, basically driven by a “put up or shut up” attitude to the many issues our industry deals with. As a result, I’ve been involved in agricultural advocacy at state, national and international levels.
This industry has provided so many opportunities for myself and my family and I look forward to helping support and guide the success of our sector well into the future.
Never before have we required such a strong representative body to ensure we have a respected seat at any table involving future regulatory development.
What are three key issues you see confronting the Australian Cattle Industry at the moment?
I’m going to bring it back to one overarching issue as I see it, that relates to every seat and table we’re at. This is a lack of producer engagement and general apathy when it comes to our collective industry involvement. We all have the ability to be fairly vocal in terms of our dissatisfaction and even anger at policy or legislation that affects us, or how we may be portrayed in greater society. Yet generally speaking, this often doesn’t translate into action or perhaps even support for those individuals and bodies that are working hard to improve and ensure the longevity of the grass-fed cattle industry.
It also appears there needs to be more clarity around industry structure, who are our representative bodies and service providers and how is our compulsory levy dollar is spent. I’m sure some producers would be shocked to know that there is little to no money available for advocacy or to fund lobbying on their part.
We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity in Cattle Australia to create the influential, powerful national peak body that we all need. The past iteration of this was bogged down in a restructure process that whilst necessary, took a lot of time, energy and funding and distracted us from many issues of great importance to our ongoing viability.
Now that we have a brand new, producer-elected organisation and the shackles are off what do we want? I’d suggest we ought to have the strongest advocacy body in the country – representing some 30% of total agricultural commodities and some 80% of Australia’s agricultural land. We should be engaged powerfully with industry stakeholders, government and society. We can take control of narratives that seek to denigrate and divide us, engaging our audience to prove our credentials on a range of fronts including the environment, animal welfare, biosecurity etc.
None of this will happen without support, via producer engagement and individual willingness to fund what we all need. I say this from my perspective as a grass-fed producer, not as a Cattle Australia director, although holding this position gives me good insight into what is required for success.
So I ask; next time you are critical of that mainstream media article that’s negatively and untruthfully portraying what you do for a living, what you are passionate about – have you done all you can to ensure that industry is advocating effectively on your behalf?
How do you see the future of the Australian beef cattle industry?
I have a strong interest in how we as Australian cattle producers can best demonstrate and continue to improve our environmental credentials at a time when there is a big focus on land use, sustainability and emissions. Our production systems are comparatively extensive on a global scale, particularly in the North, so we need to be wary of EU-style regulation and restrictions coming our way and recognise the need and potential to differentiate.
I see the Australian beef cattle industry playing a big role in being part of the solution in terms of the heightened awareness around biodiversity and emissions.
Our understanding of how cattle interact with native flora and fauna will continue to evolve and recognition of associated ecosystem services and co-benefits to society will continue to grow.
A major reason for my involvement in industry advocacy is my frustration at how ruminant animals are accounted for in greenhouse gas accounts. I see a future that, with strong advocacy, will see government regulators account for the biogenic carbon cycle correctly, rather than measuring ruminant emissions as a one-way street.
These are a handful of issues among many that are crucial to the ongoing success of our industry, which further highlights the need for strong advocacy for Australian grass-fed cattle producers.
For more information on Cattle Australia click here
I admire your commitment, “BUT”, a few things must change for the new organisation to be successful.
1. The industry must stand under the banner of what we produce, “Grassfed Cattle Australia”.
2. The organisation has to be 110% democratic.
3. The organisation has to be 110% transparent and accountable.
4. The industry has to have its own Service Provider and all grassfed cattle levies come to that organisation
which will provide it with a sustainable income, the industry will be in control of its own destiny.
5. Advocacy to come from the grassfed cattle levies.
The Processors and Live Exporters have the above in place, it works well, it is a tried and proven system, it is not new.
If we are not profitable we are not sustainable, records will show we are losing ground every year. If the industry has to go to MLA and beg for money as a funding source to survive, it will be just the “Same Old” broken system badly in need of major repairs, that is not sustainable. There is nothing there to attract support.
I hope you take this on board as constructive criticism.
At last, I hope someone will stop the pandering to the greenie new age narrative and try to get truth and balance for the Beef industry.
Well said Adam – keep beating the drum, your support base is bigger than you think.