SOMETHING is amiss in society when the people who grow our food don’t feel they can show off how that’s done without persecution.
Animal welfare, salinity, native vegetation and water use are just some issues for which farmers have been labelled as vandals or cowboys, but why?
It was farmers who recognised the need for – and implemented – windbreaks, ground cover, better animal handling techniques, conservation tillage and water efficiency, to name a few.
Governments of decades past encouraged farmers to clear land and develop country, but the governments of today have been quick to implement legislation which wins votes rather than balanced outcomes, and have a patchy history when it comes to working effectively with farmers.
This is the fallout of a society disconnected from agriculture that now tells farmers how to manage their land, animals and businesses. The end result has been draconian legislation, rather than government, or society, working together with farmers.
Last week’s shooting death at Croppa Creek has highlighted this in the worst possible way, but in doing so has brought simmering issues back into the spotlight.
The Native Vegetation Act is just one example.
In the past few years, we’ve seen farmers burn the original draft of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan due to its ridiculous water use expectations; Peter Spencer’s hunger strikes in a campaign for his “right to farm”, and snap bans on live exports to Indonesia in 2011 – the flow-on from which has negatively affected the entire Australian beef industry.
Farmers have now realised it is up to them to improve sustainability on their farms, across environmental, social and economic platforms.
Their understanding and skills as environmental managers is improving faster than any government.
At last week’s Yulgilbar Station field day at Baryulgil, many farmers had something to say about the concept of social licence. This concept was viewed as the light in which society saw farmers, and whether society understood and accepted modern farming practices – and, in turn, affected policies.
The key message was that farmers had not been effective at telling their story and showing others what it meant to be a good farmer.
Until we can get do this, we will continue to face an uphill battle.