On February 6, The Land featured a photo beneath the headline "Investors seek change". It showed a long line of farmers walking towards a shed. One of the subjects to be discussed was "monetising natural capital". I hope the line of farmers doesn't replicate the experience of passengers queuing to board the Titanic.
I asked a bank's agricultural advisor what "monetising natural capital" meant. Did it mean selling the farm for a truckload of Bitcoin? Would I get a cheque from the government for my long-term tree planting efforts?
The advice was that once consumers become aware of my efforts, they will pay more for the beef derived from my cattle operation. I have been told for years that beef consumers in Japan and Australia want to know what farm it came from.
However, my questioning private and supermarket butchers has never uncovered one such happening. Some knew what abattoir their beef came from but, unsurprisingly, none could identify which farm a steak or mince came from.
I then asked how one's carbon footprint could be measured. How did one score after a bushfire? Did one send a cheque to government?
I had to tell my informant that the concept was "nonsense on stilts", as Jeremy Bentham would have said.
There is so much "make believe" in our rural industry. New technology, superior genetics, etc don't help when one is running out of water, feed or money - or the lot. We have developed two industries - theorists and managers of overseas superannuation funds, and those who face the harsh practicality of a very dry continent.
I was recently filing papers and came across a 'Beef Production Guide' written by Dr Vic Cole for the NSW Graziers Association in 1970.
In it, he refers to a Bureau of Agriculture survey of the beef industry from 1962-65. Queensland's herd turn off per cow was 33 per cent, NSW's 68pc.
Fifty years later, in 2014, the CRC did a "cash cow" evaluation of northern Australian herds. The result was very sobering (19pc turnoff) and has seen little publicity.
Basically, we are far behind the US in beef produced per cow - the most important key to profitability. In 2020 we don't even know how many cows we have.
Our rainfall and soil are inferior to the US, we have been very slow at moving to crossbreeding. Our move to feedlotting is handicapped by dearer grain.
We read much about superior registered herd genetics, but most figures are taken from pampered herds and have little relationship to feed conversion (survival). Agents know our herd is declining at a speed much faster than MLA, ABARES etc. realise.
If Australia wants to have a beef industry, government will have to start "monetising our natural capital" in the same way they are monetising the capitol (Canberra).
Like European hill farmers, we await our monetised $50,000 annual "sustainability, regenerative farming, carbon sequestration, general custodian etc" cheque.