Senators at a public hearing in Albury this week were urged to support a recommendation calling for one percent of annual Grassfed cattle levy revenue to be diverted into a foundation to encourage more young students to pursue a career in the beef industry.
Former AMH chief executive officer John Gunthorpe is one of several voluntary directors and the chair of the Australian Beef Industry Foundation, a charity which raises money to encourage students to pursue careers in the beef industry.
The ABIF holds around $300,000 in endowment funds and spends around $50,000 a year on providing scholarships and support for secondary school agricultural programs.
Mr Gunthorpe told Senators in Albury on Tuesday that research by Professor Jim Prattley at Charles Sturt University in Wagga, NSW, had identified that 7000 graduates are needed in agriculture, but only 4000 are coming forward from tertiary institutes.
He urged senators to support a recommendation that one percent of all grassfed levy revenue, or about $500,000 a year, be provided to the foundation to contribute to its work which aims to inspire students to take up careers in the beef sector.
The need for greater investment in beef industry training and the promotion of beef industry careers was also advocated at the inquiry by Victorian stud cattle producer and former ABIF director Don Lawson.
Mr Lawson told the committee that in his view, industry structures should be simplified by replacing existing groups with a single levy funded Australian Red Meat Council, controlled by a board of democratically-elected levy payers, which would be elected by and responsible to levy payers.
Under his proposed model, the council would control the expenditure of compulsory red meat industry levy funding for research and development and marketing purposes, and would represent the interests of the red meat industry to Government.
Mr Lawson said the Red Meat Advisory Council could then be disbanded and the $40m-$50m red meat industry fund used to form the basis of a foundation support innovation, training and education in the red meat industry.
Mr Lawson said the dairy industry, which has a $60 million foundation for training and education, made the red meat industry look as if it was “from the ark”.
Mr Lawson tabled letters from the Nuffield Foundation and Brian Mobbs, the founding chair of the Australian Beef Industry Foundation, expressing support for the concept of using the red meat industry fund to establish a Red Meat Industry Foundation.
‘You can’t take two jumps to jump over a chasm’
He said the red meat industry needed a major paradigm shift and not incremental change, noting that “you can’t take two jumps to jump over a chasm”.
He said the fact that it was now cheaper for Australian students to study agricultural science in New Zealand than it was in Australia was a sad indictment on the lack of industry support for beef industry career training Australia.
“We have a huge issue in agriculture because, if we are going to double production, it all gets back to having good intelligent, multi-skilled young people,” he said.