Nothing has really changed since I last blogged. Perhaps a few more exhausted, frustrated farmers. Another Animals Australia campaign tugging on heart strings and wielding doctored images.
We take these threats to our industry very seriously because it is our livelihoods and I take my hat off to those who have been frequenting social media sites spreading the truth, staying abreast of these minority groups.
It seems that the farming fraternity is being attacked from all sides – animal extremist groups, the misinformed, governments, greens – even from within our own ranks.
How to fix it? I’m not sure there is any one answer, but I have some ideas of what needs to change.
Society needs to wear the cost. If the consumer would like changes in welfare requirements, than they need to accept the cost increases for the end product. The large supermarkets, apart from many other injustices, do a great disservice to our industry by promising no increased prices at the checkout. Essentially, if we as a community desire a higher standard of welfare, then society needs to be prepared to pay the price and therefore maybe better educate themselves on the necessity of the changes. As caretakers of the animals we farm and the land we manage, we have a responsiblity. Therefore so should those who benefit from our produce.
Agricultural groups need to merge and minimise. There are too many different groups, doing too much of the same, from too many angles, using the same old ideas and splitting seed funding into small, ineffective amounts. Perhaps one umbrella group that oversees and advocates on behalf of a limited number of smaller groups that represents the different farming industries?
A shift in social conscious. There appears to be a generation of Australians who have little to no understanding of primary production. Or anything really – they appear too insular to even try. They are drawn to social media, and finding their 15 minutes of fame – which is appropriate because they seem to also have short attention spans. Social media, while being a wonderful tool, has, in my opinion, meant that we are overloaded with information. Reducing these pieces of information to Facebook statuses or 140 characters also affects the way this material is read and then interpreted. Society needs to take more responsibility (both as author and reader) for the information that is posted, retweeted and blogged.
Unbiased education. Not just within our children’s education system. The supermarkets have a responsibility to their Australian suppliers to help educate rather than dictate. We as farmers need to blog, talk and join agricultural groups.
Unbiased media coverage. This is not just a problem in our industry. However, even newspapers like the Queensland Country Life are biased (towards us).
Funding for research. We are always looking for new and improved ways to manage our farms. Research should be swung towards aiding greater capacity over smaller areas and addressing the food shortage issues that will realistically be upon us twenty years. It is my belief that climate change is unstoppable (man made or otherwise) therefore instead of pouring money into proving whose fault it is, we should be investing into how to minimise its impact.
Divestiture powers. Similar to the United States of America, break up companies that hold over a certain percentage market share.Australia’s population is too small and our land mass too large for smaller companies to effectively compete with large corporations, therefore reducing competition.
Tax incentives. Financial incentives to attract people into rural areas. Encourage those with agricultural debts to pay their capital so that we don’t have sky rocketing rural debt. Reduce welfare handouts through times of drought and better equip farmers and any other small businesses directly affected to set themselves up through the good times for the bad times. That money would be better spent funding fencing grants, pasture renewal, water sources, feral animal control etc.
My list will continue to grow I’m sure.
We need to face up to the truth – that the extremists will not desist and will only become stronger. We need to retaliate with strong support from our industry leaders, a well informed, sympathetic government and a united farmer front – hopefully we are still around producing food when we most need it.
Let’s face it – essentially , the world has got to eat.