Earlier this month Cattle Council hosted its annual Rural Awareness Tour, taking 15 federal Department of Agriculture & Water Resources (DAWR) representatives to the coalface of our supply chains to gain first-hand insight into Australia's beef industry.
This year's tour to Western Australia gave producers we visited a chance to share their perspectives with key DAWR representatives who work, mostly behind the scenes in Canberra, to support our industry.
Fortuitously, early on day four of the tour and on the other side of the continent, Prime Minister Morrison visited the Governor General in Canberra to officially kick-off the federal election campaign.
The election comes at a pivotal moment for cattle producers, especially as parts of the country endure catastrophic drought or seek to rebuild after floods.
One of Cattle Council's highest election priorities, reflected in our conversations with Kimberley cattle producers and exporters, is for the ratification of the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership. More than 70 per cent of all Australian red meat product is exported and opportunities like I-A CEPA demonstrate there is still massive room for export growth.
That's why the delivery of an Australia-European Union FTA is also very high on our agenda, as are new trade negotiations with the UK.
A stronger trade relationship with China, and new trade negotiations with Taiwan, are also important priorities for cattle producers.
Expanding market access via FTAs or the reduction of non-tariff barriers isn't just good for producers. In terms of beef exports, liberalised trade supports the red meat processing sector which is now Australia's largest manufacturing industry. When we consider these imperatives, supporting 82,500 businesses in the red meat supply chain and the 438,000 jobs those businesses sustain, our case is of national economic significance.
Improving market access is only one aspect of true sustainability. Australia's red meat sector has set its sights on being carbon neutral by 2030 and to support the sector's efforts aimed at reaching this target, Cattle Council is seeking increased funding for carbon neutrality research. The CSIRO has estimated that $200m in support is needed over the next decade if the industry is to achieve its goal.
Initiatives aimed at increasing the uptake of new technology and on-farm practices require more effective approaches to adoption and extension and, where appropriate, funding should be allocated to ensure farmers have access to the latest science and innovation.
New funding to boost Australia's biosecurity systems and our agricultural traceability capability are also crucial.
As delegates on our Rural Awareness Tour discovered, support for the livestock export industry is emphatic and Cattle Council will continue to work with exporters and the federal government to invest in new research and development to achieve ongoing welfare improvements.
Our 'big picture' policy and government engagement strategy endures far beyond short-term political cycles. But a federal election is an important opportunity for industry to share our compelling vision and we look forward to ensuring our priorities are prominent leading up to May 18.