TROPAG CONFERENCE 31 October – 2 November 2022 Brisbane, Australia
Su McCluskey, Special Representative for Australian Agriculture Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
As the inaugural Special Representative for Australian Agriculture, Ms McCluskey is a prominent voice to promote Australia’s commitment to sustainable agriculture, to the multilateral system and to the principles that underpin global trade in agricultural goods and products. As a beef cattle producer on a property just outside of Canberra, Ms McCluskey is able to bring her experiences in farming, in regulatory and risk management regimes, as well as agricultural research, to the debates and considerations that underpin not just international market access but also the shared challenges of global food security, climate change and biodiversity loss. Ms McCluskey is a Director of Australian Unity, LiveCorp, Foundation for Young Australians, Australasian Pork Research Institute and Energy Renaissance. She is also a Commissioner for the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, a government body supporting sustainable livelihoods and food security in the Indo-Pacific region and Africa. Previously, Ms McCluskey has been the CEO of the Regional Australia Institute and the Council of Rural Research and Development Corporations and the Executive Director of the Office of Best Practice Regulation.
Plenary presentation: Monday 31 October
Agricultural sustainability and trade – opportunities and challenges
The role of the Special Representative for Australian Agriculture was created to carry the message that the multilateral system – its institutions, its rules, and its relationships – is vital for both global food security and for driving climate-smart, sustainable food production. While an element of my role is to promote Australia’s agriculture interests and achievements, the larger part of my work concerns the role that the multilateral system can play in meeting current and future global challenges. A multilateral system that draws on science and risk when setting global standards, that works through consensus, giving voice to both large and small economies, and that ultimately supports free and open trade, will help address the challenges we face. This is as true for the least developed and emerging economies in the tropics as it is for higher income economies. I will reflect on the conversations I’ve had with government and industry officials from around the world on the role of trade in supporting sustainable productivity growth in agriculture.
To feed a growing population, the agriculture sector, across the globe, must lift its production and its productivity – producing more food and fibre while at the same time reducing inputs, reducing environmental impacts including greenhouse gas emissions while adapting to a changing climate. This will be even more challenging for the tropics. Forecast to carry over half of the world’s population by 2050, the tropics are also likely at the frontline of changing climate, with greater exposure and vulnerability to changes in temperature, rainfall regimes and extreme weather events.
I will also reflect on the ‘one size fits all’ approach to sustainable production currently being prosecuted through trade settings. Such an approach will only undermine progress toward sustainable productivity growth. The research, innovation and adoption of better ways of producing food has to be tailored to the ecological, cultural and economic conditions. A ‘one size fits all’ approach has no place. As Australia’s Special Representative for Australian Agriculture, I’ve had the privilege over the last year of promoting some of the great research and extension work, and innovation efforts within Australia and within our region. I’ve also heard about the great work being done by Australian farmers and farming sectors as well as government to move to more sustainable production methods and systems. I am confident that agriculture production can contribute to healthier soils and water and biodiversity. And I am convinced that it is innovation – tailored to the real-world challenges, and not prescriptions, that will help drive the transformation needed in agriculture production. And that this innovation is best supported by a healthy multilateral trading system.