Cattle Council resigns from grassfed industry restructure committee

James Nason, 18/01/2018

First published 17 Jan. Updated 2pm, 18 Jan. 


The Cattle Council of Australia has today walked away from the long-running process to create a fully directly elected national grassfed cattle producer representative organisation.

The peak industry council says the restructure process, triggered by Barnaby Joyce’s 2014 Senate Inquiry into grassfed cattle industry structures, has taken too long to achieve, and believes it is now time to focus on exploring other options and getting on with the job of representing Australian grassfed cattle producers.

Two years ago Cattle Council joined with other industry groups on an industry implementation committee established by Barnaby Joyce in agreeing to a new grassfed representational restructure model.

The agreed restructure announced in February 2015 would have seen CCA’s State Farm Organisation-based board replaced with a board of independent grassfed levy-paying producers directly elected by grassfed levy-paying producers from around Australia.

The proposed restructure came in response to concerns expressed in the grassfed Senate inquiry that under the CCA’s State Farm Organisation-based model, the majority of Australian cattle producers who did not pay SFO membership fees had little to no say in how their levies were spent or who represented their interests at industry level. Another message from the inquiry was that the grassfed cattle industry had too many groups claiming to speak for growers, and needed one single, powerful voice to speak for all levy paying producers.

However, at a meeting in Sydney yesterday, CCA’s State Farm Organisation members told the council they did not support the restructure plan it agreed to two years ago.

The SFOs told CCA to continue with a board of 8 SFO appointed directors (one each from AgForce, NSWFA, VFF, SA Livestock, WAFF, WA PGA, TGFA and NTCA) and up to four independent, directly elected board members.

CCA representatives today informed a meeting of the Cattle Australia Implementation Committee in Brisbane that the council was resigning from the committee. The Council said its foundation SFO members wanted greater involvement and influence in the grassfed cattle peak council than was being proposed in the Cattle Australia model.

The past two years has been an at times rocky affair between the different committee factions but it is understood the restructure outcome was getting very close to being achieved.

A joint application by the Implementation Committee and Cattle Council of Australia for support for the restructure from the Federal Government’s leadership fund had recently received a $500,000 grant, which was seen as a major boost towards the restructure becoming a done deal.

Today’s meeting also saw Implementation Committee chair Troy Setter step down after two years in the role due to work commitments. Taroom cattle producer Paul Wright was elected in his place.

IC members to continue with Cattle Australia

Mr Wright told Beef Central this afternoon the remaining members of the implementation committee, representing groups such as the Australian Beef Association, Australian Meat Producers Group, the Northern Pastoral Group, the Gulf Cattleman’s Association among others, are determined to proceed with the formation of Cattle Australia, regardless of CCA’s departure from the process.

“Our policy has been right from the word go, and Cattle Council have been on board with that, is to set up a representative organisation for levy payers where levy payers are automatically entitled to membership and voting rights.

“That is what we are looking for and are going to continue to pursue.

“Obviously it would be preferable if Cattle Council were part of that, and we have expected that would be the case because they said they were, and that policy has been clear for a couple of years at least.

“So we were disappointed today at the position they took, but the CCA fellows on the committee indicated they have received instructions from the various SFO’s around the country that they want to enhance the influence they are having on CCA and the directly elected democratic model wasn’t one they could endorse.

“The elected democratic model for all grassfed levy producers is the only model the rest of the members on the committee can endorse.

“If the CCA and the SFOs wish to remove themselves from that democratic process, while that is disappointing, that doesn’t stop us from going ahead.

“The fact remains we want that representative organisation for levy payers where if you pay a levy you are automatically entitled to a membership and a vote on how your levy is spent and how the industry is run.

“We can’t see that any deviation from that has any future.”

A media release put out by the CCA and its SFO members today said State Farmer Organisations had united to throw their full support behind the enhancement of the existing Cattle Council of Australia model to ensure the beef industry has a strong national representative body. (Click here to read media releases put out this afternoon by CCA and its SFO members, and the new Implementation Committee chair Paul Wright)

‘We have been left empty handed’: CCA

CCA president Howard Smith told Beef Central the CCA board had been contemplating this move for some time.

“The catalyst being that Barnaby instigated this inquiry and then a committee to come up with a structure on a way to go forward, and it was always on the basis we would get a portion of the levy.

“We believe we held up our end of the deal as far as getting an agreed structure going forward, and basically we have been left empty handed with a lot of promises.

“The can has been kicked down the road and we have got to a point where the Minister has left that portfolio and we believe we have exhausted our options.”

He said the process had gone on too long and CCA’s SFO members had backed it 100pc to go forward and explore other options.

“We believe we have done all we can with that committee and we need to start exploring other options for CCA – you can only do the same things time and time again and it is called stupidity if you keep getting the same result.”

Mr Smith said the CCA board had made a commitment to enhance CCA to increase the number of directly elected directors from two to four, and to put more resources into promoting the direct membership mechanism.

“To trigger the next two seats to be available there needs to be 500 direct members which I believe is achievable.

“We are going to constantly enhance this organisation, we are not going to stop and fiddle, we’re going to constantly improve. This means we can now focus on getting on with the job.”

What happens to the $500,000 now?

In October the Federal Government granted $500,000 to ‘support activities leading to the establishment of Cattle Australia’ according to the Minister’s statement. At the time Mr Joyce said the industry led reform was welcome news and a much anticipated development for the cattle industry, by giving effect to the recommendations of the recent Senate Inquiry into red meat industry competition issues, which recommended the Government assist CCA to transition to a new producer representative body.

The application to receive the $500,000 in funding was prepared by the Implementation Committee of which CCA was then a part, but the application was made under the name of the Cattle Council of Australia, as the legal entity and peak industry council to administer the funds.

In the application Cattle Council of Australia requested grant funds for the development of Cattle Australia, a new grass fed cattle industry representative body with a policy council made up of representatives elected from 15 regional voting zones, who would be eligible to sit a proposed seven-person Cattle Australia Board, which would also include an additional two skills-based Director’s positions.

Mr Smith told Beef Central the funding is “still there” and the council is looking at options as to how it can be used for the benefit of all levy payers going forward.

“There are caveats and constraints around what we can use that money for,” he said. “Some can only be used for training and that sort of thing.”

“We’re quite happy to leave that on the table and talk with other stakeholders to see how that can be utilised for the benefit of all levy payers.”


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


  1. Paul Franks, 22/01/2018

    Given the industry is so fractured CCA and the SFO’s will win in the end. It is the reason why in the past twenty years producers have had so must thrust upon them, despite the evidence showing it is not required.

    For example, would the organic grass fed producers be against getting rid of the paperwork requirement for chemical applications on other grass fed entities? Regulatory paperwork that does not apply to them, but it applies to all other grass fed producers.

    Essentially will all grass fed producers stand together or will they separate into their niche groups and argue amongst themselves as to what is necessary with each group not really caring about another group being disadvantaged by something proven by risk management and evidence to be not necessary.

    I already know the answer to the question and it is no, they will not stand together unless they have a great leader to bind them together and even then, due to the huge length and breadth of grass fed producers in this country, how would you get around to be seen and make your arguments?

  2. Ashley Mc Kay, 21/01/2018

    Forget the spin folks and concentrate on the Facts.
    At the I.C. Meeting when they resigned, C.C.A. heavyweight, Peter Hall, made a crystal clear statement that “S.F.O’s want a greater involvement in C.C.A.”
    It is abundantly clear that the S.F.O’s fear they will lose control of C.C.A./Cattle Australia if every Levy Payer has a democratic vote.
    The model that they are promoting guarantees that the S.F.O’s will have absolute control of C.C.A. Policy and Direction, as they can outvote the four Independents any day of the week on any point they choose.
    C.C.A. already receives indirect grass-fed levy payments from R.M.A.C. and M.L.A. to the tune of over $2M. Obviously these types of payments could be made to the New Body.
    The S.F.O. directed decision is all about preserving their positions of power and privilege. The reasons they publicly promote are a pathetic smoke screen.

  3. Andrew Rea, 20/01/2018

    If CCA as a voluntary organisation wish to terminate their involvement with the IC committee and pursue a different course that is their democratic right, they must also terminate the funds they have been receiving for many years from the $40 million “Emergency Fund” administered by RMAC which in the 15/16 financial year was $570000.00, 16/17 financials do no appear on the RMAC website, they must also terminate any money they receive from MLA, be it under the heading of “Service Agreements” or whatever unless it has been successfully tendered for, this is money which has been compulsorily acquired from levy payers and must not be made available to voluntary organisations. To have a democratic vote of all levy payers we have to know who they are. We are told the LPA data base can’t be used because of “Privacy”. If this is correct where did “Integrity Systems Company” get their information from to send out all the notices surrounding the “On Farm Biosecurity” debacle which was backed by AHA and CCA. The Australian Wool Industry have a system in place where all levy payers have their voting entitlements plus the percentage of levy they wish to pay sent to the wool growers. Where to from here, send all grass fed cattle levy payers a voting paper and ask, “Do you want a democratically elected board”. “Yes” or “No”.

  4. Des Warrian, 20/01/2018

    Beef producers in Australia need to have more say and more control over their own industry.
    The work of the Implementation Committee needs to continue as there is a great need for a national producer owned organization.

  5. Simon Frankston, 19/01/2018

    Well said Hamish Munro..

  6. Clyde Dunn, 18/01/2018

    The democratic process cannot be bargained away. Each and every farmer deserves the right to have their say without having to go through an SFO.
    If Cattle Council Australia has walked away from the concept of a truely representative National body that will permit each farmer to have their say on decisions that will effect their livelihood. Don’t compound the situation by standing in the way of those representatives who wish to continue working to empower each and every farmer.

  7. Gary Ladbrook, 18/01/2018

    With SFO’s there’s only a handful in each State making decisions that effect all of Australia’s Cattle Industry.CCA still want SFO’s to control the show that’s why they’ve taken the ball & gone home. If the SFO’s told us what there cattle membership was we would be able to get a better gauge of how many they represent?

  8. John Gunthorpe, 18/01/2018

    Unfortunately Hamish in the past CCA and their shareholders (SFOs) failed to debate the issues in open forum debates as you suggest. So we ended up with J-BAS, LPA legal agreements tied to NVDs, Biosecurity Plans, etc. The failure of CCA to mange their responsibilities under the Red Meat Memorandum of Understanding led to the meeting with Minister Barnaby Joyce in Brisbane in December 2014.

    Under the MOU, CCA are supposed to agree projects for the service provider to undertake for the industry, monitor their progress and then assess the success or otherwise of the project. In the last few years CCA are contracting with the service provider to do the projects. This is a direct conflict of interest and counters corporate governance guidelines – the project they are currently trying to deliver. CCA say they do this to earn income to defray their administration costs but they fly in the face of their responsibilities under the MOU.

    CCA unfortunately prove themselves incapable of achieving your objectives. Cattle Australia will be a strong advocate for the interests of grass-fed cattle producers and will debate the issues important to our industry in open forum with their members in the 15 regions across Australia.

  9. Hamish Munro, 18/01/2018

    Good on CCA. The fact that they have tried to deal and work with many of the minority groups (with loud voices) within the Beef Industry on this issue for two years, demonstrates their commitment to delivering a solution. I think Mr Franks is right, about there is something more than meets the eye and factionalism is probably at the root.
    A derivative of the current SFO model is needed to provide rigorous and transparent policy formation for the industry. Having Strong SFO’s that debate and develop strong state policy, then drives a stronger national voice.
    A factional approach can disproportionately affect conversations and policy development, which potentially disrupts a clear policy formation approach. By diluting representation with smaller groups, provides less opportunity to openly debate serious topics, within the wider industry audience.
    It is time that producers re-join their SFO’s and drive state debates, rather than interest group debates. The old saying, “You can make changes, unless your at the table”, rings true in this situation.
    For my 2 cents CCA, keep ‘National Representation’ and ‘Grass roots’ front of mind and an ‘Ear to the Ground’ for every issue that arises.

  10. John Gunthorpe, 18/01/2018

    I am surprised that CCA took 3 years to come to the realization that they should not be part of the renewal process. It was an error to include them from the start as it was CCA’s failings that led the Senate Report to recommend their replacement with a levy-payer owned company with a democratically elected board.

    The Australian Cattle Industry Council encourages the Cattle Australia Implementation Committee to enact their business plan and obtain the Minister’s support. The $500,000 previously allocated to the renewal should be paid to Cattle Australia so they can hold elections for grass-fed cattle producer members to nominate for the 15 board positions.

    Cattle Australia should also now start to advocate for grass-fed cattle producers on all the issues currently confronting our industry.A meeting should be called to discuss all these issues and agree a position to take to our stakeholders.

  11. Paul Franks, 18/01/2018

    If they are worried about long term funding, simply take the money away from CCA and other MLA ancillary groups.

    I wonder if there is more to this then meets the eye.

Get Beef Central's news headlines emailed to you -