Friday, September 17, 2010

Farming in Australia

Today I left the Sydney and traveled by bus to Camberra, Sydney's capital. It was great to see some green space again, and even managed to catch a glimpse of some cattle. Herefords, Charolais, tradition looking Simmentals and black cows made up the majority. You can also tell it is calving season for many farmers, as young calves were present in many of the fields.

In Camberra, I was able to meet with representatives from the Cattle Council of Australia, Meat and Sheep and the National Farmers Union. During Denver last year I met Heidi Dennis, who handles the communications and PR for the Cattle Council. You might recognize her as the Australian spokesperson from the 5 Nations Beef Alliance video. Although, Heidi was on an ag tour she was generous enough to still line up this informal meeting for me.

The National Farmers Federation is interesting and there probably isn't anything similar to it in the United States, and I don't know if all agriculture groups could every be cohesive enough to create a similar organization.

They are comprised of both commodity and regional agriculture groups and focus on lobbying for or against issues that effect farmers and ranchers on a national level. Environmental issues, an aging farming population, infrastructure and free trade are just a few of the issues they work on, so that the smaller more specialized organizations can focus on issues that just pertain to them - like the Beef Councils trying to increase beef consumption or the Corn Board working on high fructose corn syrup issues.

What I found most interesting as I talked to these staff members is that even though I traveled miles and miles across land and water to get here we have many of the same concerns. Probably won't hurt us to learn a little from other organizations in other countries and explore how they are handling some of their issues and whether they are succeeding or not.

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