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Cattle Council says senate report misses the mark

by James Nason, 14 September 2017
6

Cattle Council of Australia president Howard Smith.

The Cattle Council of Australia says this week’s senate inquiry report has missed the mark and disregards the important work it and State Farm Organisations do for the benefit of all grassfed producers, including those who don’t pay membership fees.

Council president Howard Smith said he believed the Senate Committee report which referred to a culture of collusion was denigrating Australia’s reputation on the international stage. “I think it is a disgrace what these Senators have done, it is very damaging.”

Mr Smith said Senators had listened to the same “squeaky wheels” in making the council a scapegoat for delays in the difficult task of trying to develop a sustainable funding model to support a fully-directly elected structure.

“If we step out there tomorrow and go to a directly elected model, and set up those 15 regions, those people will need resourcing, we will need to have elections, where is the money going to come from to do it?

“People have to understand there is a cost to this, and unless you get the funds to resource it, you cannot do it.”

Cattle Council had made progress in this area, and was in the process of engaging consultants to draw up proposals to fund the directly-elected proposal.

However he said that progress had now been put in jeopardy by the Senate Committee report and recommendations.

“All this has done has stifled that process. We are in a conundrum now – do we go ahead or do we just pull up? Do we go and spend good money on consultants to develop a business proposal for no good reason because this has gone and jeopardized the whole process?”

He said the Government also needed to acknowledge its own role in delaying the proposed industry restructure. In early 2015 he said the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources acknowledged the Council’s work in bringing industry groups together on a restructure plan, with an assurance the Government would work with industry to develop a sustainable funding model. However Mr Smith said there had been nothing from the Minister’s office since.

He said that in January the Minister’s office was handed an RMAC-funded Australian Farm Institute report which explored structural and funding options for all red meat peak councils, but was still sitting on the report and had not yet released it.

The Terms of the Reference of senate inquiries, including the red meat inquiry, include the words “Any other related matters”, a catch-all statement designed to allow Senators to follow new directions as inquiries unfold if they believe there are other issues that need to be addressed.

Mr Smith said the inquiry had missed the mark by starting out as an investigation into claims of collusion at a Barnawartha cattle sale in early 2015, and then ending with a recommendation to dismantle the cattle council.

“All I can draw on is they had a senate inquiry in the grassfed sector with seven recommendations, some which we agreed with and some which we didn’t, basically they didn’t get a win there and they look like they are not getting a win here, so they have tried to turn it into using the Cattle Council as a scape goat. I take offense to that,” he said.

“We promote and defend this industry every day and we are not going to apologise for that.”

He said the recommendations were a “slap in the face” for the producers who volunteer their time away from their own cattle businesses to work to develop policy on other producers’ behalf.

He said CCA itself had been transitioning from a large board made up of all SFO appointed members to a hybrid board of SFO and direct elected directors.

He said SFOs and CCA still provided an important mechanism for grassfed producers to have their voice heard nationally.

“The SFOs have been carrying this industry for a long time, and they should not apologise for us having them as members,” Mr Smith said.

“People are willing to pay to be a member of an SFO and then willing to pay to be a member of Peak Industry Council. If you want to have a say you have to pay.

“For too long the SFOs have been carrying the load for the rest of the industry.

“For every goal that an SFO or a peak industry council kicks, it is free for the person that is not contributing anything.”

A lot of the work performed by Cattle Council of Australia on behalf of grassfed producers was not visible to the broader industry, because crowing about progress had the potential to jeopardise negotiations.

Initiatives such as those led by CCA northern independent director David Hill to change carcase language for example involve significant debate and hard work over a long period of time to bring change, he said.

“Ian McCamley has been working on the Eating Quality Cipher for some 10 years and we have finally got an outcome.

He said voluntary council directors had also invested significant time and energy to progress Free Trade Agreements, which had given Australian producers a huge advantage.

Cattle Council’s work to develop the Pasturefed Cattle Assurance System had also helped to turn grassfed beef into a product that was treated as inferior in the market place into a superior product for which accredited producers could now earn up to 45c/kg more than other product.

CCA delivers producer feedback through a consultation framework that operates through four consultative committees – animal health and welfare; research and development, integrity systems and food safety and market, market access and trade. These committees consist of producer representatives from each state and Territory. Their main role is to oversight levy expenditure and develop policy for the benefit of all grassfed producers and the advancement of the industry.



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  • richard wilson September 14, 2017

    Congratulations Cattle Council, RMAC, MLA, ALPA and AMIC on defending their excellent work carried out on behalf of the Beef Cattle Industry against the time wasting, inexperienced and denigrating 2nd Senate Report which will also jeopardize Australia’s Beef Cattle International reputation at great cost to all involved and our Nation.

  • Eion John McAllister September 14, 2017

    For CCA to put the case that they are disappointed with the outcomes and direction of the Senate Committee Report is a bit hard to understand. The position put that SFO’s and Peak Councils have achieved marvelous things and have been steering things in the right direction is indicative of the problem. SFO memberships have dropped for whatever reasons. It is their role to find out why and to do something about changing that if they believe that they are so vital. There are thousands of small producers who don’t feel that their perspectives and interests are adequately sought or represented by them or CCA. They all contribute by transaction levies as well and rarely make the margins of middle sized or larger family and corporate enterprises. The fact that the owners of up to 2 million cattle who are now not considered relevant enough to be even included in the ABS information gathering activities illustrates my point clearly. The small producer is rarely considered and always has to pay for the decisions that the big end of the industry sees as good for everyone. Sometimes it is a fair call, but too often it’s simply more red tape, hoops to jump through, cost and time for absolutely no improvement for their situation and creates jobs for bureaucratic style empires which become adept at creating more things to keep them in existence. The claim , as in the closing paragraph, that CCA Consultative Committees’ ” main role is to oversight levy expenditure and develop policy for the benefit of ALL grassfed producers and the advancement of the industry”; is not reflected in the recent decisions taken by CCA. It’s not often that some of Australia’s leading cattle business operators openly condemn the decisions made and the outcomes imposed upon all producers. As a small producer I can assure you that I don’t feel that my interests are considered, or even respected. It is always a case of ” now you will do this”. Ask those who you are pretty sure agree with your world view for feed back and you can quite honestly say that consultation indicates support for your position or actions. Asking another profile will give you a very different view. I am sure that Mr Smith’s views are well meant but to say that if you want to have a say you will have to pay is a bit rich when you openly also say that you are developing policy and oversight for the benefit of all in the industry. It’s up to the Minister to weave a solution to this situation and I hope that he is able to facilitate a much more diverse representation model, a new organisation that can start with a clean slate and be strong enough to represent the range of producer interests across the nation.

  • John Gunthorpe September 14, 2017

    If CCA were serious about continuing the Implementation Committee discussions, perhaps they could forego their junket to Paraguay later this year and put these funds toward the cost of launching Cattle Australia. Also we understand there is the cost of bringing 80 people to Canberra every quarter for committee meetings with flights and accommodation estimated at $600,000 a year they could save. Again spending $300,000 on the annual cost of their adviser to the Animal Health and Welfare Committee could be saved and contributed toward the cost of holding elections.

    It was CCA that gave our industry the Protection Zone Policy in Queensland to eradicate Johne’s disease and sent 280 producers into quarantine and cost our industry $80 million and sent some of our people to the wall. The stress and financial hardship from this policy can be fairly laid at the feet of AgForce and CCA.

    It is CCA who have decided that 220,000 cattle producers should prepare a Biosecurity Plan by 1 October or in the words of MLA’s Integrity CEO face the refusal of your cattle at the abattoir or take a price reduction. Now my checking with the larger processors across Australia suggests this advice is not correct. In fact the abattoir would refer the NVD to MSA for checking but there would be no refusal and no price discount.

    It was the CCA adviser to the Animal Health and Welfare committee that devised the J-BAS system. CCA have had their and MLA people running around the country holding over 50 workshops to explain the biosecurity form and 39 questions and J-BAS. Cattle producers become frustrated when questions are not answered and they are told to do the best they can.

    If you check the MLA website the NVD is now termed the LPA NVD. Why is it necessary to tie the NVD to the LPA? Again MLA’s Integrity CEO said from 1 October you must have a biosecurity plan to be compliant to the LPA. Why not have the LPA stand outside the NVD? we are told be CCA that it is necessary to set standards for our overseas customers. As a past CEO of Australia’s largest beef processor I can assure you our brand reputation is set by the continuing high standards of product our beef processing industry provides to our world clients.

    What is needed is a reduction in the costs of running our supply chain. Marketing waste such as we have seen with the “beef is best” campaign and “religious lamb” campaign show that our transaction levy payments are well in excess of that needed to fund our industry development.

    If CCA undertook their responsibilities set out in the Red Meat Memorandum of Understanding and reviewed the performance of the projects on which MLA spend our levies, then many of these failures could be avoided. But CCA have not and they have failed our industry.

    The final evidence of CCA’s dysfunctional management is their acceptance of the $1.9 million funding from MLA to perform corporate governance work in our industry. We understand 20% of this payment will find its way into CCA;s bank account as an administration fee. This has to be a massive conflict of interest and paradoxically inappropriate corporate governance.

    There is a better way. An address in Casino, NSW proposed that we need a new organisation that would have its directors elected from the 15 regions. The Australian Cattle Industry Council (ACIC) will be member owned, advocate for cattle producers, develop policy to realise potential, listen and lead, provide direction for government and interact with and participate in cattle communities across Australia. ACIC will be sustainably funded and truly representative.

    Under the Red Meat MOU, processors and live exporters also have the benefit of having their own service company to receive and spend their levy funds. They decide where and on what the funds will be spent.

    Collectively grass-fed cattle producers pay some $70 million in levies each year. Currently they are paid directly to service companies. CCA fail to manage these expenditures. To correct this we propose to follow the processors and live exporters model and form a grass-fed service company – Australian Cattle Producers Corporation (ACPC).

    Our levies should be paid into ACPC and elected directors will oversee the projects where funds can be spent to advance our industry. If as we suspect the levy funds are excessive, then we will propose a reduction in the transaction levy to reduce one cost to our industry.

    We invite all concerned cattle producers to come to a meeting to hear our plans. We are meeting in Wagga Wagga, NSW next week and Boonah, Queensland the following week. Meetings are also planned in Queensland at Charters Towers, Rockhampton and Chinchilla. There will also soon be a meeting in Launceston, Tasmania. If you would like to organise a meeting in your district please contact us at jgunthorpe@bigpond.com.

    John Gunthorpe
    Australian Cattle Industry Council
    0400 403 456

  • tom campbell taroom September 15, 2017

    Richard history has a way of repeating its self go back to 1977 grace mere blockade UGA was king and Cattlemans Union was formed to look after smaller cattle producers the cattle council does not support little people the BJD quarantine producers lost there farms homes and some there families that is a crime you did not see the cattle council blockade the gate to stop the bailiff from moving
    Richard do not support an orginsation that does not look after its members

  • Clyde Dunn September 15, 2017

    Howard Smith appears not to understand the issues that have been raised and investigated, ie collusion in the sale yards, pre/post weighing etc. The Cattle Council has not been representing farmers hence the need for a new representative model.

  • Brad Bellinger September 16, 2017

    Most of the CCA income comes from compulsory levies. About $500 000 from the levy reserve fund (dividends from past levies) and about $1m per year from MLA. The SFOs play a minor role in funding CCA less than $200 000.
    The Government is in an interesting position where it is funding CCA and CCA is lobbying against them?
    How dare CCA claim that the Senate is damaging Australia over seas reputation when CCA want to allow imports of beef from countries that have had cases of mad cow disease and foot and mouth. The damage this would do to our domestic market(our biggest) is immense.
    Multinational processors represent the biggest voting block at MLA and MLA provide the largest funding source for CCA so their is little doubt why Mr Smith would be so upset when the Senate raised the issue of buyer collusion.

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