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