In discussions with other producers I often wonder why so much energy is used up lamenting about how consumers in the city have no idea what happens on Australian farms. It seems the customer is always right until they question farming practices and demand certain standards of behaviour.

What if Australian beef producers changed their approach?

The problem with bureaucracy

Politicians have a job to do. Primarily they aim to be voted in at the next election. They know their customer, Australians aged 18 and over, have expectations of them. Policies reflect what the majority of voters want.

Rural and regional Australia is at an undeniable disadvantage in terms of policy. The numbers are stacked in favour of city constituents.

So why do producers focus so much energy on lobbying rather than listening?

The reality of the modern consumer

No one likes being told what to do. As consumers, we want great customer service from suppliers who understand and ‘get’ us. If we don’t like the attitude, we take our business elsewhere. We expect high standards, ethical production processes, value for money and transparency.

The business of farming

Farmers are a proud bunch. We all know stories of producers doing it tough but refusing to ask for help. Agriculture is an emotional industry. There is so much more to what we do than simply making money. But in reality it is the one thing that determines a farmer’s future.

A viable farm is the ultimate legacy.

The problem with pride in business

So back to the problem… When you focus on yourself, you stop listening to what others are saying.

Australian consumers don’t want to be educated on how their food is produced. They just want to know their values won’t be compromised by the choices they make.

Australian producers can’t afford to not listen

Have you noticed the inside of your egg carton lately? They are filled with stories of generational farmers who produce the finest quality fresh farm eggs from hens who are well cared for in human and environmentally aware conditions.

The egg producers are listening. By telling stories of the care they provide and the passion they have for their business they are reassuring their customers that they doing the right thing.

Australian agriculture can capitalise on consumer trends

As business owners, farmers have a great opportunity. Australian agriculture produces amazing quality products that exceed international standards on many levels.

Farmers prefer to get on with the job and leave the politics to others. The problem is that there are interest groups who get on with the job of politics and this costs farmers money.

Instead of attacking back, there is a financially sound option.

Proactive producers are thinking ahead and looking to best management practice accreditation. These farmers are able to reassure their customers that their values are important and they are operating in accordance with international standards of animal welfare, safe work practices and environmental stewardship.

The growing trend of brands

In the beef industry more and more processors are creating brands. Not just one brand, but many. They are focusing on niche markets and customer expectations. There is obviously money to be made selling customers exactly what they are asking for.

The question Australian farmers need to ask themselves is ‘what am I prepared to change to make more money?’