Natural and financial capital have to be aligned: farmers

Natural and financial capital have to be aligned: farmers

Beef
Beef and sheep producers Paul and Jenny O'Sullivan "Malabar Farm", Gippsland.

Beef and sheep producers Paul and Jenny O'Sullivan "Malabar Farm", Gippsland.

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Farmers use natural capital to market their beef.

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RELATED: Accounting for natural capital on farm

FOR GIPPSLAND beef and sheep producers Jenny and Paul O’Sullivan, conscious sustainable management of natural assets has been the foundation of profitable farming for decades.

Their 680 hectare property “Malabar Farm” in Victoria runs 400 breeders, 2500 ewes and has also ventured into agri tourism in the past five years.

Their beef supplies the award-winning Gippsland Natural Beef brand, a grassfed, hormone free “raised as nature intended” product that was one of Australia’s first producer-owned beef brands to carry the Meat Standards Australia tenderness guarantee.

The O’Sullivans have developed a system to manage and continually improve both environmental and animal welfare outcomes.

This includes monitoring pasture cover, soil testing regularly,, protecting biodiversity and fencing off waterways among other measures.

Being able to tell this story to consumers has been crucial to the success of the brand.

Malabar Farm was held up as an example of how farmers are using natural capital management to market products at this year’s Australian Bureau of Agriculture Resource Economics and Sciences Outlook conference in Canberra.

Mrs O’Sullivan said good environmental management was good business for farmers.

But there was a big cost involved and so the move by the finance sector towards accounting for natural capital was a significant step in the right direction, she said.

“What NAB is doing is fantastic - it’s creating incentive to manage natural resources sustainably and rewarding those who do,” she said.

“Agriculture is carrying Australia at moment from an economic point of view and in order for it to continue to do that, good practices have to be supported.

“One of the challenges is that if we make bad decisions on our natural capital, the feedback is a long time coming but with a bad economic decision, your cash flow tells you quickly.

“The two have to be aligned.”

Mrs O’Sullivan said the reality was “consumers are not going to save the planet.”

“The latest consumer perception research shows price, freshness and quality are top the meat buying decision factors and environmental concerns only account for 1.7pc,” she said.

“So consumers won’t drive environmental sustainability - it has to be industry.”

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