Beef industry urged to shun ideology and culture wars and go mainstream

Beef industry urged to shun ideology and culture wars and go mainstream.

Monday, 6 May 2024

RESPECTED former New Zealand Prime Minister Sir John Key has urged beef producers to give up on trying to win over extreme environmental organisations and politicians, and instead engage with middle Australia to secure the future prosperity of the industry.

Sir John, who led New Zealand for eight years and out of the global financial crisis, was the keynote speaker at the Cattle Australia Breakfast Symposium “On Being Influential” staged at Beef2024.

He said popular culture demonstrated how powerful communicating directly to a mainstream audience can be and how it should be harnessed to guide advocacy in agriculture.

“Look at the impact of Yellowstone,” he told the crowd of more than 600 people.

“More people are moving to Montana per capita than any other state in the United States. Everyone wants to be John Dutton. Essentially, it is about a farmer who loves his land. Look at Clarkson’s Farm, it’s done more for agriculture than anything else in decades.”

The former leader of the New Zealand National Party recounted his own early experience on the hustings when he attempted to woo groups traditionally opposed.

“We spoke to the NGOs, we spoke to the Greens, and I think we converted one in 100, maybe one in a thousand and I remember saying ‘We should shoot where the ducks are’,” he said.

“As soon as we changed our mindset, it changed our polling. For the beef industry, the target is not the people whose minds will never change, it’s middle Australia.

“Target the people who want to support you. Talk about why you’re good for the planet and be tough on yourselves. Nothing is going to turn off that group you’re trying to win more than animal welfare issues.”

Sir John said he was “massively optimistic” for the future of Australian and New Zealand agriculture due to the rising world population and the increasing wealth of nations such as India and China.

“As soon as you get wealthy, you buy protein and you buy it from a country you can trust – and that is Australia and New Zealand,” he said.

The world needs Australian beef

Ralph Schoellhammer, who delivered a presentation titled “Australia: a hidden superpower” reinforced the importance of communication.

“Agriculture, mining and energy have to be better at communicating with the public,” he told the audience.

“The world economy needs Australian agriculture. You are a much more important player than you get credit for. Australia is one of the largest beef exporters and one of the most important exporters of calories. Without Australia there would be famine.

“Mining, agriculture and energy do not have an efficient lobby. In politics and economic outcomes, yes absolutely, they’re good at lobbying politicians.

“But in popular culture and in the public imagination, I’m always surprised when I’m in Australia you have these debates about drag queen story hour, or transgender issues in schools. The culture wars are on our minds all the time.

“I’m always wondering why is there never something like a coalminer’s story hour? Why don’t we have school children spending time on a farm?

“If people don’t know where their fundamental sources of wealth and prosperity come from, how are they supposed to defend them?”

Get comfortable being uncomfortable

Cattle Australia Chair, Garry Edwards, said the team at CA worked tirelessly to ensure the interests of grass-fed cattle producers were not just represented but were advanced.

He also appealed to producers to cast off their humble nature and speak proudly on behalf of the largest levy-paying sector in the Australian economy.

“My words to you are simple, get comfortable being uncomfortable and having conversations with people you don’t know,” he said.

“Embrace the challenge and get out there and talk to people who don’t look like you, who don’t understand what you do, because they are the consumers of your product and ultimately deliver our social licence.

“That is critical to the profitability and sustainability of our future.”



Hayley Kennedy
0488 021 154

Stacey Wordsworth
0438 394 371


Garry Edwards

Managing Director and CEO, Maureen Pastoral Company

Garry was born and raised on a commercial beef cattle property south of Gloucester in New South Wales. Garry has personal cattle production interests in this region today as well as his corporate role as the Managing Director and CEO of AAM, a business that has a significant focus in continuing to expand beyond our cattle production interests in Central West NSW, near Forbes and Bective Station near Tamworth, NSW.

Garry has over 25 years’ experience in large scale livestock production management within the Australian agribusiness sector. His experience spans across a vast array of areas of the agricultural supply chain and includes managing businesses involved in livestock breeding, growing and finishing, financing of agricultural projects, implementation of precision agriculture practices, investigation and implementation of sustainability and innovation initiatives and developing and operating integrated agricultural businesses.

In 2007, Garry founded the company that today is AAM, commencing the development, operation and management of a portfolio of agricultural assets valued at $887 million and he remains the major shareholder of AAM.

Garry has a unique skill set across multiple facets of the grass-fed cattle production supply chain, from production through to finishing, as well as a unique perspective of the challenges facing all grass-fed producers within Australia through his involvement in the modernisation and development of livestock marketing facilities throughout Victoria, NSW and Queensland.

George King

Managing Director, The Whitney Pastoral Co and Manager, "Coombing Park"
George is a seventh generation Australian farmer, currently managing his family property which they have held since 1880. George operates an Angus breeding and finishing operation joining 1,500 cows per year, with a low-cost model turning off steers at feeder weights and direct sales of females.

George has long been on a regenerative agriculture path as it was the only way he could see to renovate their property 25 years ago without employed equity or working capital, which at the time they didn’t have. He continues with this model as it provides outstanding cost containments, continued production and profitability.

George is married with four (4) children, Harry 24, Emma 22, Dave 15 and Tom 13. He also enjoys flying and has his pilot’s license.

George is also a Founding Director of The Wellness House and a Founding Director of ONFARM CO. He has a strong voluntary involvement with his community including as the NSW Rural Fire Services Senior Dept Capt. and Chairman of St Paul’s Carcoar.

Bryce Camm

Grazier, camm agricultual group

Bryce Camm hails from Dalby in Queensland’s Darling Downs region where he oversees his family’s company Camm Agricultural Group; an integrated beef and cropping enterprise with interests across Queensland.

Bryce has been CEO of the group for the past eight years. Prior to that he was the Manager of the group’s award winning Wonga Plains Feedlot for eight years where he oversaw the operation triple in size. Growing up on “Natal Downs” Station in north Queensland Bryce undertook a dual degree in Business Administration and Communications at Bond University and is a graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership Program as well as the Australian Institute of Company Directors Course.

Bryce is currently the Chairman of Beef Australia Ltd and the Immediate Past President of the Australian Lot Feeders Council, as well as a previous Director of the Red Meat Advisory Council. 

Elke Cleverdon

Owner and Director, Cleverdon Agriculture - Grass Fed Black Angus

Elke is an experienced non-executive director in the agribusiness and customer-owned banking sector with a passion for member-centric organisations. She brings a grower perspective coupled with her genuine drive to elevate the industry through innovation. She was selected to the National Farmers Federation ‘Diversity in Ag Leadership’ 2022, among 12 women nationally. 

Elke has a broad background in the agricultural industry as a producer and rural financial coach across regional NSW challenging business models & production systems for growers across a wide range of commodities. Elke is a joint owner & director of a broad acre family cattle farm at Harden NSW since 1993. Cleverdon Ag raises & trades black Angus cattle  

Elke brings a wealth of financial, risk management and governance experience. Her current non-executive director roles include Local Land Services (NSW), Murrumbidgee Health (NSW Health) and SWS Credit Union. Some of her many strengths is a strong focus on strategy, risk and a triple bottom line while chairing large scale audit & risk committees  

David Foote

Director - Tandarra Partners

Nominated by: Peter Hall, Troy Setter, Bryce Camm, David Hill, Adam Coffey 

For the past 45 years, David has held rural property management, executive and senior management positions across all mainland states in areas of; beef cattle & sheep breeding, growing and lot feeding, meat retailing, small seed growing, irrigated fodder, and the further processing and exporting of primary products such as meat, grain and fodder.

His export experiences which started in 1989 included a role with Stanbroke Pastoral Company to help develop Stanbroke’ s Live cattle export program. Additionally, David managed the integration of Bottle Tree feedlot grain feeding in the production system while developing and launching their now globally recognised Diamantina beef brand.

David has been in a leadership role at the Lee Family’s, Australian Country Choice group of Companies since 1999 and progressed in that time from General Manager Properties & Livestock to Group Managing Director until stepping back in December 2020 from a full time role to a strategic advisory and board role.

Headquartered in Brisbane and employing over 1,400 staff across 42 operations, Australian Country Choice (ACC) operates Australia’s largest vertically integrated beef supply chain; encompassing cattle breeding, cattle growing and feedlotting to supply its integrated food processing facility in Brisbane that incorporates beef slaughter, beef boning, value-adding and case ready beef packing.

ACC’s cattle property portfolio of around 4 million acres in Queensland & NSW encompasses operations from the Barkly Tableland, CQ coalfields, Carnarvon ranges, Augathella, Blackall, Roma, and Moonie districts of Queensland, with a carrying capacity of 300,000 head. of cattle to support the Company’s 3 feedlots.

Additionally, David represents Agricultural & Cattle industry interests in his role as; Non-Government member Australia­ Indonesia Red Meat & Cattle Partnership, member SmartSat CRC, member Cattle Australia -Policy Council, member Australian Meat Industry Council -China & Halal Trade Groups, Chair Workplace Health & Safety Queensland -Rural Industry Sector Standing Committee, Deputy Chair Laguna Bay Pastoral investment committee and Board Member lnventia Genetic Technologies (IGT). 

Away from work David has a small cattle property in the Mt Kilcoy (Qld) district running Charolais & Charbray breeders to the delight of his four grandchildren.

David wishes to continue into a second term to help build a strong and successful Cattle Australia to represent the interest of all cattle producers