Direct elections, full levy control on table in CCA restructure

James Nason, 30/10/2012

Grassfed cattle industry talks aimed at restructuring the Cattle Council of Australia have come down to an evaluation of two options – known as ‘Option B’ and ‘Option C Lite’.

Option B, proposed and backed by members of State Farm Organisations (SFO), involves replacing the existing SFO-appointed Cattle Council of Australia board with a 16 member board, with half the directors appointed by SFOs and half directly elected by grassfed levy payers.

It would use a series of committees one tier below the board, each drawing on wider industry expertise, to manage policy development in specific areas.

A major component of the model’s funding would come from re-diverting a portion of the $5/head transaction level away from Meat & Livestock Australia and to the new body to pay for strategic policy setting and administration.

In contrast, Option C ‘Lite’, developed and modified during the ongoing restructure process, would have a board consisting entirely of directly-elected directors.

Below the board and chief executive officer, it would also use a series of committees to  handle key focus areas, such as policy, advocacy, and research and development, each with its own full-time staff member to service the committees. SFOs would be invited to appoint at least one member to each committee. 

Another key differentiation is that the Option C Lite model would see the new body taking full and direct control over how the funds generated by the $5/head transaction levy – currently worth about $56 million per year – are spent.

The new body would use some of the proceeds to fund its administration and would allocate money to service providers such as MLA.

Option C Lite is a revised version of the original and more radical “Option C” which was presented to a Cattle Council of Australia restructure meeting in Brisbane earlier this month.

The original option involved a merger of peak industry councils such as Cattle Council of Australia, the Australian Lot Feeders Association and the Sheepmeat Council of Australia, and the levy-funded Meat & Livestock Australia, into one single organisation that  would manage both policy development and policy delivery.

That option was always going well beyond the jurisdiction of the Cattle Council of Australia alone and would have required the support of other peak industry councils and a complicated industry overhaul.

Option C Lite brings the plan back to a grassfed cattle industry level and would see only CCA  restructured, with MLA continuing in its current support capacity – albeit with annual grassfed levy funds flowing directly to CCA to decide how it is allocated, and not to MLA.

One of the key figures who has been involved in developing Option C Lite is Central Queensland cattle producer Cameron McIntyre, who was selected to be a member of the Writing Group established to develop possible restructure frameworks from feedback acquired through Cattle Council of Australia’s four-month-long industry-consultation process.

Mr McIntyre sums up the problems facing national grassfed cattle industry representation in this way:

“Cattle Council of Australia is the national Peak Body for the cattle producers, who pay the grass fed levy, of some $56 million.

“CCA is owned by the State Farm Organisations (SFOs) and the Board of CCA is appointed by the SFOs.

“The SFOs represent multiple agricultural sectors and are considered to be largely unrepresentative of the 40,000 plus cattle producers.

“CCA is prevented from communicating directly with cattle producers as it is required to go through the individual SFOs, of whom most producers are not members.

“This situation has created some dysfunction in the leadership of the cattle production sector, resulting in MLA being seen in a leadership role for cattle producers while being legally prevented from advocating for the sector.”

Mr McIntyre said the key components of Option C Lite include ‘’a truly national body, direct representation, direct management of the grassfed levy and the ongoing involvement of the State Farm Organisations.”

“Option C Lite was developed during the CCA restructure process and while it has not been widely considered at this stage, it was supported by the producers invited by CCA to the recent CCA structure meeting in Brisbane,” Mr McIntyre said.

“It envisages an actual national body that is a producer owned, transparent, accountable, responsive, levy-funded, deals directly with producers and directly manages the grass fed levy, albeit with MLA continuing in its current service support capacity.

“Option C Lite is based on cattle producers needing a focused organisation that takes primary responsibility for the cattle production sector’s ongoing leadership, communication, education and extension.

“Option C Lite formally acknowledges the importance of the SFOs through their ongoing involvement in the policy formulation, priority setting and regional industry improvement extension.

“SFO sponsored candidates would no doubt be well served by members putting themselves forward for election to the Board.

“Whatever option is adopted by CCA will require industry wide consultation and broad industry support to be implemented.”

Mr McIntyre said that while the concept was still being refined, at this stage it was envisaged that a board would consist of 12 members, with the capacity to bring more members on if and when specific skills of importance were deemed to be lacking. 

Beef Central understands that there have also been further modifications made to the original Option B that was presented to a recent CCA restructure meeting (Option B was detailed in this Beef Central article on October 10), and will provide more detail on how ‘Option B Modified’ is taking shape in coming articles.

Cattle Council of Australia has indicated that it now has the job of making a final decision on which framework should be taken forward, in the knowledge it must be able to demonstrate industry wide consensus to secure support for the changes from Federal Agriculture minister Joe Ludwig. 



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