Boswell attacks 'sustainable' beef

27 Mar, 2014 11:30 AM
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WWF are no friends of the Australian cattle industry

QUEENSLAND LNP Senator Ron Boswell has delivered a stinging speech attacking moves to force Australian cattle producers into verifying “sustainable beef”.

He warned cattle producers may be forced to wear the scheme’s compliance costs, to keep environmental groups in business and “provide a marketing point-of-difference for the likes of McDonald’s”.

Senator Boswell’s speech also demanded the sustainable beef campaign be investigated by the Senate Standing Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee which he’ll discuss with Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.

“I believe it requires forensic examination in a Senate inquiry,” he said.

Senator Boswell said the inquiry could call the main players to testify, including McDonald's, Walmart, Woolworths, Cargill, JBS, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Holland-based environment-related group Solidaridad, the Cattle Council of Australia and pharmaceutical companies Merck and Elanco.

“We can thoroughly examine who will bear the cost of this sustainability scheme and who will enjoy the benefits,” he said.

“We can investigate what the implications are for rural and regional communities that depend on cattle and other primary production.

“Also the implications for Australia’s trade sovereignty and its ability to freely trade in primary products, products we already know to be sustainable.”

Senator Boswell launched into his 15-minute speech warning owners of Australia’s 77,000 cattle properties to “examine very closely the international campaign to make you prove you are environmentally sustainable”.

It was sparked by the release on March 17 of the Draft Principles and Criteria for Global Sustainable Beef document which he said could potentially shape how Australian cattle producers are allowed to operate in future.

Produced by the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, he said the document was designed to “oblige cattle producers around the world to prove they are environmentally sustainable”.

Senator Boswell said he believe the document was principally initiated and shaped by environmental activists and “that makes me very suspicious”.

“It is a document cattle producers throughout Australia should scrutinise very closely,” he said.

“The draft document on Principles and Criteria for Global Sustainable Beef anticipates having national or regional standards that must be met by cattle producers.

“Who is going to verify that those standards are being met?

“And how much will Australian cattle producers be charged for the privilege?”

Senator Boswell said immediate attention was focussed on establishing a definition for “sustainable beef” but no-one had an exact definition.

He said Australian cattle producers shouldn’t be told what “sustainability” means and then be made responsible for the process for proving it “and the price tag”.

The document is available for public comment until May 16 and will be followed by a final review in July, while Roundtable members due to ratify the principles and criteria later this year.

Senator Boswell also urged the scheme’s proponents to be up front about the potential costs Australian farmers may be charged to meet any sustainability certification.

He estimated that 77,000 farm properties, paying $1,750 each for workshops and certifications, would total about $135 million in one year.

“In January this year, McDonald’s headquarters in the USA announced its stores across the globe would buy verifiably sustainable beef from 2016,” he said.

“I am sure McDonald’s cares about the planet.

“However, their ultimate responsibility is not to the planet but to their shareholders.

“They examine issues based on the view of improving value and returns to shareholders.

“Much of what they do is about marketing and money.

“I know someone who cares passionately about the environment and livestock – and that is the average Australian farming family.

“I do not want to see them burdened with more cost and more paperwork and more unnecessary environmental obligations to keep WWF in business and provide a marketing point-of-difference for the likes of McDonald’s.”

Senator Boswell said he’d had informal discussions with CCA President Andrew Ogilvie on the issue and believed he was “caught between a rock and a hard place”.

“I am sure he (Mr Ogilvie) is well-intentioned and has what he perceives as the best interests of Australian cattle producers at heart,” he said.

“However, he needs to be informed by the widest possible range of views from cattle producers across the country before he goes back overseas to negotiate on these sustainability principles.

“I appeal to Australian cattle producers – do not take this issue lightly.

“Do not think it is just “bulldust” and, if you ignore the issue, it will somehow go away and not affect you.

“Speak up – now - have your say.”

Senator Boswell said if Australian cattle producers don’t sign up to the sustainability principles determined through the Global Roundtable process, to allow a third party to certify or verify their sustainability, would McDonald’s refuse to purchase beef locally?

“Will environmental activists like WWF campaign to ban the sale of Australian beef on overseas markets?” he said.

“We have already seen environmental activists campaign to prevent the sale of Australian timber on overseas markets when it wasn’t produced from the sources they sanction.

“This is referred to as “green blackmail”, or simply “green-mail”, something I have warned about in the past.

“WWF are no friends of the Australian cattle industry.”

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Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
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READER COMMENTS

Victor
27/03/2014 2:22:41 PM

This is a pretty predictable response from Ron Boswell. Consumers do have a right to know if cattle farming is sustainable. Very few Australian cattle farmers have anything to fear and if consumers feel strongly enough about this issue they won't buy beef. The producers with the biggest fears will be the Brazilians with its government turning a blind eye to the steady burning and destruction of its rain forests to allow cattle to graze. These carbon sinks are vital to a healthy planet. Australia having good sustainable farming credentials will give us a commercial advantage in the future.
Y
27/03/2014 2:50:25 PM

Has to be a Triple bottom line, environmental sustainability in isolation will not be sustainable
Tom
27/03/2014 3:16:52 PM

the senator is spot on. go down this path at your own peril. CCA need to immediately come clean on who will be running the program and who will be auditing it. If WWF makes one cent from this proposed program then it should be knocked on the head immediately.
mouse
27/03/2014 5:17:02 PM

Hear! Hear!
hunter
27/03/2014 8:29:57 PM

ah the nanny staters at it again. Have been doing the same thing on our place for 5 generations, that sustainable enough for ya?
PAYG
27/03/2014 11:41:58 PM

Senator says: - “I am sure he (Ogilvie) is well-intentioned and has what he perceives as the best interests of Australian cattle producers at heart,” he said. “However, he needs to be informed by the widest possible range of views from cattle producers across the country before he goes back overseas to negotiate on these sustainability principles.” - Why doesn’t Ogilvie mind his own business & stay home. Other than his own membership, he has no authority to sign Cattle producers up to anything. Earth to CCA: - Don’t do it, they (WWF) are trying to destroy Farmers, it’s in their DNA.
Craniologist
28/03/2014 4:47:17 AM

If McDonalds et al, are prepared to pay a 20% premium for certified 'sustainable beef' I reckon I might be interested. But at first glance, this is just another scheme for artful dodgers to dip into our pockets with no gain for the farmer. They want environmental sustainability, we want financial sustainability. It is not a case of who blinks first, it means that if these people want it so much, they are just going to have to pay for it.
richard the realist
28/03/2014 8:46:47 AM

Farmers do more for so called sustainability and the environment than any pretend greenie in a koala suit will ever do. Unfortunately todays society seems to require an assurance scheme of some sort before they will recognise any quality guarantee. PCAS is a classic example of a processor guaranteeing that you have pasturefed your product so that the processor can charge a premium for the product, does the benefit flow on?. As always it is not about the scheme it is about who bears the burden and who benefits. Senator Boswell is correct to inquire. Is WWF Quality Assured and sustainable?.
a farmer
28/03/2014 9:36:20 AM

Thank you Senator Boswell
Qlander
28/03/2014 10:10:58 AM

The whole thing is just a massive 'protection racket'
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