Could 2017 be the year that delivers a long-planned new national grassfed cattle industry representative structure?
The path to agreement on the right path for industry advocacy has been long and for many frustratingly slow, spanning several years and numerous consultations with growers, consultants’ reports, a number of senate inquiries and various industry committees and working groups.
Agreement on a new structure to replace Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) was finally achieved among various grower groups in 2015, involving a new national board of directors, to each be directly elected by a vote of all levy paying cattle producers in each cattle producing region.
However, the ongoing stumbling block continues to be how the new body should be funded.
Attempts to convince Government that some grassfed levy revenue should be used to fund the new grassfed industry body have been rejected at Government level so far.
Early last year the Government urged the Red Meat Advisory Council to use reserves from the red meat industry fund to commission the Australian Farm Institute to undertake a study of all peak red meat industry councils and explore possible sustainable future funding models for each.
The AFI report was completed and given to industry councils late last year, but has not been released publicly, so it is not yet clear if it will help to answer the funding conundrum currently stalling the transition to a new grassfed cattle industry representative structure.
The CCA does have a new chief executive officer in Duncan Bremner (more on his background below), who started in the role just last week.
Asked by Beef Central this week what he saw as the big issues for CCA heading into 2017, the restructure was high on his list.
“There has been plenty of exposure over the last couple of years regarding industry representation and an immense amount of work is being undertaken to improve transparency and advocacy through Cattle Council’s proposed restructure,” Mr Bremner said.
“We will continue to push towards structural change to deliver the advocacy, policy and strategic services the industry needs.
“The implementation committee made up of representatives from Cattle Council of Australia; the Northern Pastoral Group; the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association; the Australian Beef Association; the Australian Meat producers Group and the Concerned Cattle Producers and industry remain fully committed to the new structure.”
From an industry perspective, Mr Bremner also nominated key issues for the grassfed cattle industry looking to 2017 as sustainability and resilience.
“The market is red hot at the moment, and we need to ensure that we assist producers to build their capacity to be able to keep going when the market cools,” he said.
“More specifically, trade will be a key focus given exports accounted for nearly 75pc of the Australian beef product last year.
“Cattle Council campaigned for a greater focus on non-tariff barriers and enhancing resources provided to agricultural consulates in 2016 and will continue to this year along with focussing on the changing political landscapes in the US and UK, and delivering the best outcomes for beef producers in any trade agreements.”
Mr Bremner’s past experience includes roles as a CEO and Board Director in agribusiness, regional development, logistics, and trade.
He formerly held senior executive roles in leadership, innovation, advocacy and governance with the Brussels-based International Federation for Animal Health, Agribusiness Australia, ChemCert, the National Farmers’ Federation Council, and the National Rural Press Club, Animal Medicines Australia, the Australian Road Train Association in Australia, the UK, and North America.
He has also served as an advisor to former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson and to the early years of National Broadband Network company (NBN Co).
After leaving school and spending several years working in the Northern Australian cattle industry, he completed a Communications degree at Charles Sturt University Bathurst and became a broadcast and print journalist in rural and regional media in NSW.
Asked what attracted him to the CCA CEO’s position, Mr Bremner said a key factor was the ability it provided to return to his roots and his passion.
“Taking on the role is allowing me to consolidate everything I have undertaken in my professional life, and put it to work advocating the Australian beef industry.
“My family has a long history in agriculture, with interests that extended from the Western Division of NSW, the Northern Territory, and Solomon Islands.
“Whilst they covered a broad array of commodities from wool through to cocoa, I was drawn from an early age to the cattle industry.
“Growing up, my father undertook a lot of work in crossbreeding with Angus bulls, then marketing boxed product directly into Japan.
“I was fascinated with the processes involved, such as breeding to draw particular traits from different breeds (marbling from Angus being the obvious one), the performance results between our small feedlot and the paddock, through to the marketing.”
Mr Bremner said his time on stock camps in and in the northern cattle industry straight out of school helped to immerse him into the sector.
“I would’ve been quite content to have stayed there, but I guess curiosity pushed me to see what else I might be able to do.
“That and a sense that I probably owed it to my parents to see if they could get some kind of return on their investment in my education before I settled into a life in a swag.
“That led me on what has been a pretty interesting and diverse career in the media, politics, logistics, telecommunications, and agribusiness, domestically and internationally.
“Whilst those roles always had a connection with agriculture, it was always on the periphery. I’m now finally back in the heart of agriculture, being able to draw on the diversity of my previous experiences to help lead and provide for the Australian cattle industry. “