Industry needs to be brave enough to say yes, but also strong enough to say no

Effective consumer consultation and engagement is vital

News
INDUSTRY LOSS: Ashley McKay, front, from Augathella, Queensland, was a strong advocate for effective consumer consultation and engagement by the nation's beef sector.

INDUSTRY LOSS: Ashley McKay, front, from Augathella, Queensland, was a strong advocate for effective consumer consultation and engagement by the nation's beef sector.

Aa

COMMENT: Agribusiness lawyer argues for better consumer engagement.

Aa

COMMENT

The Australian agricultural industry has been the foundation stone of the progress and development of our nation.

Agriculture has faced, and overcome, many challenges in the past - and it will face many more in the future.

We are an industry of resilience, innovation, adaptation and constant change.

We are also an industry that is constantly challenged - not just on the products we produce, but also how we produce them, how we manage the land on which they are produced and how we deliver those products to the consumer.

Today's consumer is vastly different to the one of 50 years ago, and will be much different to the one we have in 50 years' time.

We have adapted our agricultural industry to meet consumer trends, and adapted to government regulatory demands that do not often reconcile with the best means of production, land management and/or long-term sustainability.

A few weeks ago, the Australian beef sector - and rural Australia as a whole - lost a great industry advocate in Ashley McKay, from Augathella in outback Queensland.

Mr McKay was a pioneer of his time and advocated for greater industry transparency and consumer engagement.

He was also a man who knew the value and real meaning of the word "no".

He believed in the importance of sensible and coordinated consumer engagement along with sustainable land management, which is the platform on which our industry relies.

When government sought to override best practice for political expediency, in the form of unscientific and uneconomic vegetation manage laws, Mr McKay was brave enough to stand up and say "no".

Today, we are faced with the challenge of meeting consumer and government demands from people who spend little-to-no time dealing with the practical realities of our industry and its sectors.

We manage huge swathes of the landscape in vast areas of remote and under-invested parts of the nation.

We do so under challenging climatic conditions, in highly variable markets and in the face of regulations dictated to us by those who have no practical understanding of the world we operate in.

We strive every day to meet those expectations and, despite all odds, find ways to improve what we do.

We continue to answer the difficult questions and invest our hard-earned money in ensuring our agricultural industry is better tomorrow than it is today.

But as much as we are willing to adapt, change and innovate, we must also have the confidence in our industry - and the very important work that we do - to say "no" when those demands outstrip our ability to operate sustainably.

We must have the strength to embrace change, but also to stand-up for the foundations that make our industry great.

We must be resolute in our belief in the future of our agriculture, no matter what "woke" trends the world throws at us.

We must also be aware that many of the questions being asked of us are not from our customers or consumers, but from interest groups who make a lot of noise but don't actually want to buy our product.

Those interest groups don't particularly care about improving Australian agriculture - they want to see the end of it.

Accordingly, we must be brave enough to say "yes" to the future.

But we also need to be strong enough to say "no" to ensure the future of our industry.

- Tom Marland is an agribusiness lawyer based in Bundaberg, Queensland. He is also the author of the blog, Food for Thought, Thought for Food.

The story Industry needs to be brave enough to say yes, but also strong enough to say no first appeared on Stock & Land.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by