BALANCING profitability with sustainability and environmental stewardship is one of the most important components of primary production, particularly in an environmentally diverse state like Queensland.
This diversity comes from the likes of the Great Barrier Reef, an environmental wonder that, for many years, the rural sector and organisations like AgForce worked hard to develop management strategies which encourage both productivity and minimise run-off.
This week AgForce will announce its reef committee, the latest in a series of such groups aimed at placing further emphasis on key policy issues. Other committees include land tenure, leasehold rents and vegetation management and solutions.
Our newest committee will liaise directly with government and stakeholders on how we can further ensure a safe and sustainable relationship between broadacre agriculture and the reef.
The other cornerstone of our continuing reef stewardship is the Queensland-grown program Grazing Best Management Practice, or BMP.
Developed by an effective partnership between AgForce, Fitzroy Basin Association NRM Group, the former DEEDI and Federal Government Reef Rescue Funding, BMP has been piloted in the Fitzroy catchment since 2011 and is modelled on the successful Grains BMP program.
BMP is voluntary, self-assessed and industry driven and comprises six modules including soil health, grazing land management and property management and planning, which have been trialled in the Fitzroy, as well as animal health and welfare, animal production from pastures and people and business.
The latter three have been drafted and are now ready for producer reference group review before piloting.
These benchmarking modules are completed by graziers, are self assessable and offer continuous improvement of practices.
This is in stark contrast to the government-imposed Environmental Risk Management Plans in which unworkable legislation was imposed on cane farmers and Burdekin graziers.
AgForce always favoured a system designed by industry for industry and working together to resolve issues over the "big stick" approach of government legislation that fails to fully understand the complexities of sustainable primary production.
Not only does BMP provide the grazing industry with measurable, best management principles but it also aims to demonstrate good environmental stewardship to the wider community and that primary producers are not only custodians of the land but also carers of the reef.
For agriculture to be fully accepted by all consumers, including those in metro
politan areas, our industry must be able to build trust from the bottom of the food supply chain to the top.
To do this we must lead public conversation on issues like the reef and provide feedback to industry on how they can do things better.
We must also prove our competence through providing science and data to back up our claims in order to establish the confidence of those who purchase our products.
The public wants to know we are producing food in a clean and safe manner and that the way we farm this food is sustainable enough to be continued for many, many generations to come.
Grazing BMP, along with the creation of the new AgForce Reef Committee provides the framework to build this trust and to make sure our industry is competitive, productive and focused on caring for the land and resources we use.
More and more graziers are integrating BMP into their production system, and this is on a voluntary basis.
This shows our industry's willingness to consistently refine our management practice and to individually ensure what graziers are doing on their property is in line with consumer expectations.
This is exactly the type of action required to build trust through the supply chain and to ensure the long-term future of the rural sector and the natural resources of which the industry is custodian.
Brent Finlay is general president at AgForce.