DEMONISING those who raise environmental and animal welfare concerns and defending the status quo no matter what it looks like is the worse response to opposition to farming practices.
Red meat industry leaders knew that and were “all over” changing consumer demands. Politicians not so much.
These were the thoughts shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon shared at a major industry event, the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association’s BeefEx 2018 in Brisbane this week.
The trick to ensuring farmers had ongoing access to the products they need was ensuring the broader community had faith and confidence in the industry and the regulatory regime, he said.
Mr Fitzgibbon was referring to glyphosate but said the role politicians and industry leaders alike had to play in maintaining that confidence across all agriculture sectors was the same.
He said growers had told him “we don’t want any knee-jerk reactions” in relation to glyphosate.
Mr Fitzgibbon made the argument producers needed to be less concerned about politicians and more focused on consumers.
“Consumers, both domestic and export, will continue to grow more discerning about the food they consume,” he said.
“They’ll want it clean, safe and high quality as they always have, but increasingly they’ll want reassurance that it’s grown in an environmentally sustainable way and produced in an ethical way.”
The fact was the status quo did not always look good and consumers were voting with their feet, he said.
The government of the day needed to anticipate consumer changes and work with those in the sector who were not moving sufficiently quickly to accommodate growing opposition.
“That’s the best approach for the sector because it helps those lagging, and it prevents the laggers dragging down those who are already accommodating changing community attitudes,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
Red meat’s leaders were definitely ahead of the game, he felt.
BeefEx 2018 covered some of the hottest issues in the red meat industry, with speakers from around the globe touching on everything from big data and fake meat to the economics of cattle production.