Why we're at roundtable: AgForce

24 Apr, 2014 12:47 PM
As an industry we cannot afford to persist with refusing to document and verify our credentials.

OPINION: THE recent meeting of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) in Brisbane has again stimulated a stream of debate as to the merit, or perceived damage, of membership of the group.

Given the historically combative relationship agriculture has shared with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) these concerns can be understood.

Certainly, our decision to sit at the Roundtable, through our membership of the Cattle Council of Australia, has been one made with careful consideration of both the previous behaviour of WWF and our responsibility as industry participants to be proactive in taking ownership of the future demands that will be placed on the grazing sector.

This criticism has this week extended to the Grazing Best Management (BMP) program, an industry-owned benchmarking scheme jointly delivered by AgForce, the Fitzroy Basin Association (FBA) and the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

The critique has been largely based upon the FBA’s membership of the GRSB and the potential for this to undermine the beef industry through its association with WWF. To be frank, this extrapolation, and subsequent condemnation, of the BMP program is as misguided as it is destructive to the advancement of the Queensland grazing sector.

Such fear-mongering demonstrates a clear inability to look beyond today and to prepare for a new era of both opportunities and challenges for our primary producers.

The pressure cooker of consumer expectation is ever-growing with green radicalism cleverly recognising it can fuel public appetite for information about the production of food and fibre. The ship has sailed on this.

We cannot wind back our consumers’ interest in their food’s origin but we can be proactive in using this curiosity to better market our product.

The BMP’s modules including soil health, animal health and welfare, grazing land management, animal production and people and business, provide us with a framework to do this while also measuring our business performance and profitability.

Why would any prudent operator not see this as beneficial to not only their own enterprise but to the greater industry they are a part of?

If you don’t like the sound of that, consider how future governments will respond to pressure from not only green groups but from an electorate demanding sustainable primary production.

The underlying premise of politics is fundamentally simple – in their quest for votes politicians respond to public opinion. They are, more often than not, guided in their decisions by the demands of the greater number of their constituents. If we, as an industry, cannot demonstrate to those constituents we are transparent in our production systems and invested in sustainability, make no mistake, we will be heavily regulated.

Of course, some regulation already exists and BMP aims to collectively demonstrate our industry’s compliance with these prerequisites. However, if for a moment you think a left leaning government will not attempt to appeal to green sensibilities through stripping authority over our industry from us you are mistaken.

As the Asian middle class grows and demand for high quality beef upsurges our need to differentiate ourselves from competing countries also intensifies.

We cannot be the food bowl to Asia, that role will be filled by nations producing larger quantities of lesser grade protein, but we can be the provider of a premium product which attracts a premium price tag.

Be sure we are not the only country to have identified this opportunity and it is now critical we work hard to develop a clear competitive advantage over our rivals. Demonstrating product quality, animal welfare and sustainable production systems is a key tool to be used in this market positioning.

As an industry we cannot afford to persist with refusing to document and verify our credentials.

Our future opportunities are boundless and there is no doubt we are on the dawn of great prosperity.

However, unless we can take responsibility for our own future, keep regulation and green tape at a minimum and be proactive in demonstrating the performance of our own product I fear we will be left behind.

Ian Burnett is general president of AgForce, Queensland.

Date: Newest first | Oldest first


24/04/2014 4:13:11 PM

This is all fine,but there must be a payment for the effort. let livestock producers decide what market they aim for and the price payable for their effort. If the consumer wants all this then he must pay a premium!!
24/04/2014 6:41:49 PM

Ian, I think you are trying to hitch the cart up in front of the horse. We live in one of the greatest democracies in the world. If the majority of our fellow Australians feel strongly enough about how we produce food and fibre that they vote to regulate our production methods in one form or another, so be it. On the other hand, if neo fascist group like WWF or any of their cronies decide to impose their confused and overzealous ideology on producers and consumers we should not have to watch our industry peak body leaders performing as their cheer squad. Time to re-read your job description.
Don't be a Wally with our money.
24/04/2014 8:03:19 PM

Well done Agforce. Let those who don't agree ignore the trends and stick to their narrow views and go broke. Meanwhile, I will support such moves and protect my future cattle sales and hopefully, premiums.
Dale Stiller
25/04/2014 4:58:20 AM

This media release from Agforce is an reaction to an article in the April 24 Qld Country Life on page 3 called, Beware the Trojan horse of the Fitzroy. As of yet it hasn't been posted online. There has been a misunderstanding by Agforce about this other article. There was no criticism directed at the Grazing BMP program itself rather the devaluing of the credentials of a home grown developed & owned BMP program by the distributor associating with GRSB & WWF.
john from tamworth
25/04/2014 8:04:34 AM

The consistent and overwhelming message from cattle producers is that they don't want anything to do with the WWF and the nonsense GRSB.They do not want yet another program rammed down their throats by the "industry structure" via the LPA that will only increase costs and dictate how they run their businesses.This patronising diatribe from one one of the amateurs at the relic SFOs just shows just how out of touch with reality these people have become and why they continue to bleed members.
Miss Demeanour
25/04/2014 8:19:03 AM

A misunderstanding, maybe, but one that could have been avoided had the FBA not joined hands with WWF through the GRSB. If you lie down with dogs you'll get fleas. Mr Burnett's spin is good. If you can't polish the proverbial at least you can roll it in glitter.
25/04/2014 3:34:36 PM

Well said AgForce. While producers will always struggle to trust WWF given its track record and its goal to reduce meat consumption we must also be aware that the world is changing and we must seek to meet the growing demands of the people who consume our products. Groups like WWF will not stop aggressively trying to influence consumers so we must be proactive in ensuring we on the front foot in terms of providing verifiable information about the way we produce food. Being complacent about this will surely end in us being dictated to as opposed to being part of the conversation.
28/04/2014 8:10:17 AM

Roxanne, being proactive doesn't mean you get into bed with the enemy; let the individual farmer make the business decision, you do it if you want, but don't expect others to foot the bill and the consequences.
28/04/2014 9:29:16 AM

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.


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