LAST week's industry meetings in Tamworth made for a very busy start to my tenure as Cattle Council CEO.
Our AGM, board meeting and consultative committee meetings gave me a chance to meet many of the producers who volunteer their time to contribute to beef cattle advocacy and policy development in Australia.
Coinciding with MLA's Red Meat Australia conference, Cattle Council's meetings brought our members together from around the country and seeing up close their passion for Australia's beef cattle industry was a highlight of the week.
Coming from a pastoral family background in the NSW Western Division, I identify strongly with that passion and know the importance of grassroots participation in agricultural representation and working together to drive the industry's direction.
Most recently I've seen the value of strong producer advocacy as CEO of the Queensland Farmers' Federation, representing 13,000 of that State's intensive, semi-intensive and irrigation farmers.
While there a number of similarities between the QFF role and my new position with Cattle Council - articulating producers' environmental credentials, underpinning consumer trust in our product and upholding strong biosecurity systems - I'm looking forward to the unique set of challenges that comes with representing beef cattle producers.
Australia's beef industry boasts a proud story which would be the envy of most beef producers elsewhere in the world.
Hardworking rural families produce healthy, clean, green beef of the highest quality, while sustainably managing a huge portion of the national landmass (more than 79 per cent of the total area of agricultural land in Australia) and generating significant economic value for the nation (around 20 per cent of the total gross value of farm production).
The cruel drought affecting so much of the continent is a stark reminder about the importance of the beef cattle industry to regional economies and communities.
The increasingly complex operating environment means effective representation is absolutely vital, but this is especially the case when producers fall foul of seasonal variabilities.
Cattle Council must continue to articulate our industry's economic, environmental and food security imperatives and ensure we're working with government to strengthen the policy framework to promote producer productivity, profitability and stewardship.
The latest industry projections forecast the national herd will drop to 25.5 million head by June 2020, the lowest number since the early 1990s.
At a time when we are growing our exports and wanting to seize new trade opportunities, including capitalising on China's seemingly insatiable demand for Australian beef, rebuilding the herd is a fundamental priority.
Cattle Council's goal is relatively simple: Effectively represent all Australian grass-fed cattle producers to set the strategic direction and develop the policies to guide and lead our industry to a sustainable and profitable future.
Coming together at Tamworth last week gave producers the chance to continue the discussion regarding the Red Meat Industry's new Memorandum of Understanding, the Meat Industry Strategic Plan (MISP) 2030 and Cattle Council's own restructure.
There's no doubt Australia's livestock and red meat representational structures are at a historic juncture and I'm determined to ensure Cattle Council continues to play a proactive role on behalf of producers.
In the modern world, all organisations face continual performance scrutiny and structural review.
However, we must ensure that delivering positive outcomes for producers remains our primary focus and not become obsessed with ideology or process.
As such, where a whole-of-industry restructure or Cattle Council's own internal reforms to a direct-elect board model are concerned, any changes must represent stronger grassroots producer representation.
The small, committed Cattle Council team and I are excited about working with our president Tony Hegarty and other directors, plus our State Farming Organisation members and producer members as we negotiate the challenges and capture the opportunities that lie ahead.