Professor Michael D’Occhio (Beef Central Monday 27 Feb) is not alone in proposing that more attention should be given to:
• ‘Ethically-endorsed’ production systems that add value to ecosystems and biodiversity, whilst at the same time being profitable.
• Transformational science that transforms practices and processes and leads to major improvements in production and profit.
D’Occhio makes these propositions for the northern beef industry but they apply equally well to the farm sector generally.
In his 2010 farewell address the immediate past President of the National Farmers’ Federation, David Crombie said:
‘Our biggest task is to maintain the trust of the wider community. Trust in the quality of our food and fibre and trust in the ethics and the integrity of how we produce it. I see a future where our farmers will be valued for their production of food and respected for their environmental delivery’.
The 2010 Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association Futures Project report recommended:
• Implementation and demonstration of sustainable environmental management
• Integration of production and conservation activities on the land
And Michael’s call for more emphasis on transformational research is well supported by my own analysis of the need for greater creativity in agricultural R&D (in Landscapes and Mindscapes; Making Space for Creative Thinking 2001 at www.almg.au/resources/developmentofalmg)
Threat or opportunity?
The Melbourne based lifestyle research Mobium Group data show that:
– Over 90% of Australians believe that businesses have a responsibility to consider the impacts of their operations on the environment and the community.
– Over 70% generally are concerned about the treatment of animals.
And the excellent work by Brad Witt and his colleagues at University of Queensland clearly shows that urban people are concerned about the rural environment and agricultural practices, that the city-bush conflict of attitudes is largely a myth in rural minds and the press and that the urban population generally:
• Has a good perception of land managers
• Is supportive and prepared to share costs
• Is concerned about effectiveness of current policies and programs, and
• Laments not being able to exercise purchase power
Self interest should drive us, but too often we are constrained by myths and fanciful pasts.
As a relatively high-cost producer we need to differentiate ourselves here and overseas.
Over most of the past 50 years or so we have had a miniscule increase in the real gross value of agricultural production notwithstanding massive increases in the volume of production.
As competition for resources, including for land, increases we need to get smarter about linking productivity improvement to increased profit. One way to do this is to position ourselves in emerging higher value markets, markets that are concerned about how their food and fibre is produced.
A challenge? An opportunity? A need?
No matter how you view the community’s wish to be involved we landholders can take the lead. However the opportunity to take the lead is running out. Those who lament the loss of control to governments and advocacy groups should look over their shoulders at the inevitability of restrictive and costly market driven impositions unless we take the initiative. And we can do so.
Our Group’s Certified Land Management system (CLM) enables landholders to improve natural resource management, animal welfare, productivity and risk management and it enables an internationally recognized verification of environmental and animal welfare credentials. It is being applied by large and small innovative landholders across four States and across many different land uses and industries.
LEGUME NSW 2476
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