Dangerous precedent in the live sheep ban

While our farming sector is powered by passion, the industry is built on a firm foundation of science, evidence, and fact.

The $80 billion sector recognises the vital role that quality research, development and adoption plays in improving productivity and value across the supply chain.

The industry, government and the private sectors have worked together for decades to solve global problems in agriculture from soil and animal health to yield and production improvements. The co-investment and co-operation of these three sectors have been integral to the past success of Australian agriculture and remains vital to its bright future.

Government plays a significant and important role in creating an environment that means that others can invest in the future of the industry with confidence. It’s a very simple formula: ensure that policies and commentary from our political representatives are underpinned by science, evidence, and fact.

The track record of this approach speaks for itself. Consider that Australia has been able to attract global capital, talent and ideas that have underpinned the growth of the agricultural industry and put it as a ‘model citizen’ for other developed economies.

One of the examples of this science-based approach is the Australian regulator for agricultural chemicals which ensure best practice is maintained and upheld to ensure the safety of the product for industry users and customers and consumers of our food. This robustness of this system helps safeguard farmers’ continuing right to farm and provides certainty for investment in innovation for ag chemistry.

Now, what has left the agriculture industry scratching its head is how this principle can be applied to one part of the food supply chain but ignored for another.

With the decision to phase out the live export of sheep by 2028, a vital channel to market for West Australian sheep will close. A channel that not only underpins the economic and capacity demands for the Western Australian producers but does so with the highest of standards. The live export industry has worked hard to invest in the science and processes required to meet the standards required by our government and regulators.

To put it bluntly, industry feels that politics has trumped science on this one. And I agree.

The reasons why the live export market is important for WA sheep producers are multifaceted and complex. That’s because the global business of agriculture is complex and one movement in one part of the supply chain is always felt the hardest back at the farm.

And if decisions on live export can be made without reference to science, economics or even global food security, then the question for our industry is – who’s next?

When I moved from Canada to Australia in 2022 to head up the Nutrien Ag Solutions - Australia business, I was struck by the positivity and the opportunity in agriculture in this country. The question I am most asked is ‘how does Australian farming stack up against agriculture in the other parts of the world that Nutrien operates in?”

And the answer is – astoundingly well. For an industry that more often than not works with unforgiving weather and soil conditions, the output and the innovation from Australian farmers is world leading. Add to this that Australian farmers are among the least subsidised in the world and you have an industry that succeeds because is world-leading at managing risk, openly embraces innovation, and – most importantly – is passionate about producing top quality food, fibre, and fuel.

But the industry needs to know that the decisions taken by Government will be grounded in science and consider the complexities of producing food, fibre, and fuel as part of an interconnected global supply chain.

We should support innovation and always look at ways in which we can improve the sector based on science, evidence and fact.

We know that’s what growers are doing every day, and we feel proud to support them in their pursuit of a more productive, profitable, and sustainable future.


Kelly Freeman, Managing Director, Nutrien Ag Solutions Australia