FOOD Leaders Australia was proud to host the inaugural Intensive Agriculture conference in Dalby last month.
The event celebrated the leading position the Western Downs region, and more broadly the Darling Downs, holds in relation to intensive animal industries and included some thought provoking questions raised from the speakers. Of particular interest on the day was the topic of social license, or in layman's terms - society's acceptance for the business or industry to operate, particularly relevant given the ongoing activity from some groups against intensive animal industries.
The topic was covered by global thought leader, Ian McConnel, Global Leader of Beef from the World Wildlife Fund, who is also a fifth generation beef farmer, and surprisingly, to many people in the room, gave the industry confidence to continue to grow and invest.
"In Australia, farmers are rated as the most trustworthy profession that does hold a life in our hands", Ian said, which effectively reminds us that farmers are just behind doctors, paramedics and other medical professional as trusted individuals.
As an industry that constantly feels attacked by our consumers, this fact highlights the wonderful image we have with the majority of Australians.
Also, as an industry, we tend to be drawn to the negative press created through small activist groups and lose perspective of our position of trusted suppliers of food and beverages to Australia and the globe.
Ian followed up by stating "Australia's national identity is intrinsically linked to that of the farmer, regional Australia, and the outback.
As an industry we start at an amazing position of strength when we talk about social license and our consumers' confidence in our product".
Social license can be threatened quickly as evidenced by the live export scandal, and subsequent banning of all live exports in 2013.
Ian pointed out that the industry remains at risk whilst we don't eliminate the bad. It's all very well to have the top producers strive for the pinnacle of excellence but the media and activists will always highlight the worst producers and hold them up to the public as an example of the whole industry.
Industry can protect themselves by setting minimum standards everyone must adhere to and then be prepared to hold producers to account if they don't meet these standards.
There are fantastic examples of this throughout the intensive animal sector, in particular the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme, and they should be rightfully proud of their leading position. As farmers we should be confident in our message.
We should also be confident that the vast majority of consumers support and acknowledge the great work we do.
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