Queensland Country Life

Credentials back sustainability action

Central Queensland producer Melinee Leather was involved in the development of the Environmental Credentials Platform. Picture Amy Holcombe
Central Queensland producer Melinee Leather was involved in the development of the Environmental Credentials Platform. Picture Amy Holcombe

This is branded content for Meat & Livestock Australia

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) recently launched a new Environmental Credentials Platform, a user-friendly tool to measure sustainable production practices on-farm.

Central Queensland beef producer, Melinee Leather, was one of 50 producers involved in its development, along with other supply chain participants.

Melinee, her husband Robert, son Adam and his wife Chloe operate a beef breeding and backgrounding business across three properties, covering 17,500ha from Banana to the North Burnett region.

They run a Brahman-based herd, crossed with Limousin, Belmont and Angus. They've also invested in a fullblood Wagyu herd, as well as Angus cattle to extend into an F1 Wagyu program.

In addition to Teys Grassland and EU accreditation, the Leathers rely on the feeder market when the seasons aren't favourable.

Sustainable management is at the forefront of their business, to ensure their environment is well looked after, and that they are doing the best possible job in terms of land management and environmental impact.

Mrs Leather recently finished a four-year position on the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework's steering group, and the Leathers were among the first producers in the country to access NAB's Agri Green Loan.

"NAB knew our business was very interested in sustainability and in collecting data and making sure we can verify claims, so it was a natural progression for us to go down this pathway with them," Mrs Leather said.

"The Environmental Credentials Platform is in line with our bank's reporting requirements for the Green Loan."

Environmental Credentials Platform

MLA Environmental Markets Project Manager Jenny Lim said the development of the Environmental Credentials Platform was in response to demands from the supply chain.

"We've had a lot of conversations with end users - banks, retailers and government agencies - who want to measure their Scope 3 emissions," Ms Lim said.

"To help them achieve this, they need producers to demonstrate they are operating sustainably and using best practice on farm."

Although producers have the option to use audits or on-farm assessments to demonstrate their credentials, these can be very expensive and are not always accessible if a producer is just starting out on their sustainability journey.

"We wanted this project to provide a user-friendly, free or low-cost way for producers to demonstrate their on-farm practices to an end user," she said.

The project - funded by the National Landcare Program's Smart Farming Partnerships initiative - was developed by a consortium led by MLA and including World Wide Fund for Nature Australia and the University of Queensland.

Benefits to producers

Mrs Leather said the platform provided value to their business.

"We're very interested in any way we can track our land management and environmental impact, obtain resources to improve this, and be able to verify our sustainability claims," she said.

"This platform will do all of those things.

"I like the fact the platform is within the myMLA dashboard, so everything is tidy. It's handy when you can start integrating some of the data you're collecting with other platforms."

Mrs Leather said the platform's ability to share on-farm initiatives with others - in terms of verifying a producer's claims - is one of its strengths.

"Being able to demonstrate your credentials to the supply chain is a business opportunity," she said.

"We can't just say we're doing these things. We need have some sort of platform to prove the claims we make around environmental management and other sustainability measures."

The Leather family's cattle farm. Picture supplied
The Leather family's cattle farm. Picture supplied

Recording data

The platform has given the Leathers the opportunity to record existing sustainability initiatives which they already have underway, as well as guiding future improvements.

"Here at 'Barfield', we're linking remnant vegetation with tree planting corridors to improve biodiversity.

"The platform helps you to understand what differences these things might make to your property and your business.

"What will the benefits of additional tree cover and biodiversity in your pricing system mean?

"If you improve your biodiversity, you'll improve soil carbon levels and kilos of dry matter produced."

Mrs Leather said this type of reporting was essential to demonstrate red meat producers are operating sustainably.

How it works

To access the Environmental Credentials Platform, users sign on through myMLA: mymla.com.au.

The platform is linked to their property identification code and their Livestock Production Assurance account.

It incorporates mechanisms to determine carbon balance and biodiversity, while delivering access to learning modules under five environmental themes:

  • carbon balance
  • tree cover
  • ground cover
  • drought resilience
  • biodiversity stewardship.

The platform utilises the MLA Carbon Calculator and the Cibo Labs remote sensing platform and includes self-guided learning modules and self-assessment checklists.

For more information, visit mla.com.au/enviro-creds or email Ms Lim at jlim@mla.com.au.

This is branded content for Meat & Livestock Australia