News

Grassfed cattle restructure group meets

James Nason, 01/03/2017

THE independent implementation committee overseeing the creation of a single new body to represent Australian grassfed cattle producers nationally met in Sydney last week.

A new structure has been identified as the preferred model of grower groups leading the restructure process. It is based on direct membership and a board made up of levy-paying cattle producers elected by levy-paying cattle producers.

2015-2-18-CCA-restructure-chart.au_assets_cattle industry representative

Grassfed industry representative structure chart – click on image to enlarge

It will allow every producer who pays the $5/head grassfed cattle levy to participate in national industry policy development, to stand for election to represent their region on the board of the new body, and to vote on candidates in their region for the board.

The continued burr in the saddle is the question of how it should be funded.

Establishing a new organisation that is truly representative of all growers nationally, by giving every grassfed cattle levy payer in Australia a say and a vote, will require money from somewhere.

Last year Cattle Council of Australia estimated that $4m was the minimum amount needed to set up the new directly elected national producer organisation, and to develop sustainable funding streams to ensure its long-term success.

Prior to the June 2016 Federal Election, the Coalition pledged to create a $5 million “Leadership in Agricultural Industries” fund to help farm representative groups and peak industry councils develop leadership skills and transition through structural adjustments.

The fund was to be available to all representative organisations across the agricultural landscape, so the amount of money available to Cattle Council was unlikely to be as high as the $4m it had identified. Further details on how the $5m fund will be distributed have not yet been released by the Coalition Government.

Grower groups still see levies as part of the solution

The idea of re-directing a portion of funds generated from the $5/head levy to pay for the restructure and the organisation’s ongoing activities still has strong support among grower groups.

This is despite the idea being rejected in July 2015 by the Coalition Government, on the grounds that funding the new organisation through compulsorily acquired levies collected by Government would make the new organisation beholden to the Federal Government, and not free to express its views without fear or favour.

There were also concerns about whether it is appropriate for an industry advocacy organisation to be funded via a tax that is collected compulsorily (grassfed levy funds are generated by growers for industry purposes, but collected and overseen by Government and technically classified as tax money in the eyes of Government). Ag Minister Barnaby Joyce urged the industry to find sustainable alternative funding streams away from the levy. However, the door was also left ajar at that point to levy funding being used, if a vote of all levy payers supported the idea.

Should growers have to pay extra for a say on how their levies are spent?

At present, grassfed cattle producers who pay the $5/hd levy have to reach further into their pockets again and pay for a membership of State Farm Organisation or Cattle Council of Australia to participate in policy-setting that influences how their levy funds are spent.

The view of those who support levy-money being used to fund the new organisation’s establishment and operations is that producers who pay levies should automatically have a say over how those funds are used, and that levy money should be used to facilitate that process.

They also argue that levy funding could easily be separated to pay only for the representational activities of a new organisation, and could be quarantined from advocacy activities.

Last year, in order to progress the stalled grassfed industry restructure, Mr Joyce urged the Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC) to use money from the Red Meat Industry fund to commission the Australian Farm Institute (AFI) to investigate possible future sustainable funding models for all red meat industry peak councils.

The study was completed last year but has not been released, so no-one outside AFI, the RMAC board and presumably each peak council, knows whether it has identified any realistic funding solutions, either levy funded or non-levy funded.

However, Beef Central has been told it did not come up with a simple, single silver bullet solution.

Cattle Council of Australia said last year that a future funding model will include multiple funding sources.

Possible funding streams that have already been discussed include the new organisation earning fees for service, sponsorship income, developing commercial revenue streams, conducting major industry events and continuing to receive disbursements from the Red Meat Industry Fund managed by RMAC.

Whether the as yet publicly unknown findings  of the AFI report will pave the way for the Government to reconsider its previous opposition to allowing levy money to pay for such a purpose remains to be seen.

Implementation committee ‘united in its resolve to form one organisation’

Troy Setter

Troy Setter

Questioned about the progress of the restructure this week, Implementation Committee chair Troy Setter said the group was united with their resolve to form one organisation that represented all grass fed cattle producers, and that the funding of the new group, both in implementation phase and ongoing, remained the key area of focus.

Asked if access to direct levy funding is still being considered, he said the members of the committee would like to see levy funding included as part of the solution.

At some point, possibly this year, future funding models, either levy or non-levy based, will be put to a vote of all cattle levy payers to ascertain grassroots grower support for the proposal.

It is understood that using the current Property Identification Code (PIC) system is seen as one potential way to reach every grassfed levy payer for the purpose of allowing them to participate in that vote.

Members of the Implementation Committee are:

Chair, Troy Setter, Northern Pastoral Group (NPG)

Howard Smith, President of Cattle Council (CCA)

Duncan Bremner, CEO, CCA

Peter Hall, Director, CCA

Brett Hall, Director, CCA

Tom Stockwell, Northern Territory Cattleman’s Association (NTCA)

Ernie Camp, President, Australian Beef Association (ABA)

David Byard, Executive Officer, Australian Beef Association (ABA)

Norman Hunt, Rural Industry legal advocate, Australian Meat Producers Group (AMPG)

Cameron McIntyre, AMPG

Ashley McKay, AMPG

Joanne Rae, AMPG

Paul Wright, AMPG

Linda Hewitt, ABA

Loretta Carroll, Ovens Valley VFF

 

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Comments

  1. Rod Dunbar, 02/03/2017

    Just supposing that this proposition were to come to pass, using Tax funding, we would all be compulsory bound (supposedly) to these rules;

    CCA constitution
    4.1 Cattle Council shall be responsible for determining and implementing policy on all non-State specific matters of a commodity nature affecting the Cattle industry in Australia.

    For instance, the Policy in the NT on Hydraulic Fracturing is supportive of the Gas Industry not the CTL payers; so therefore being a federal matter must be a CCA policy – huge ramifications there for CTL payers persons nationally in Oil and Gas areas.

    4.4 Cattle Council shall enforce the obligations agreed under this Constitution and Regulations and be entitled to restrain any Member from breaching the undertaking under clause 5.3.

    All those CTL payers nationally have more problems here!!

    5.3 By admission to Membership, Members acknowledge that Cattle Council alone retains the right to represent the national Cattle industry and its participants, and Members agree not to represent themselves as speaking for that industry.

    All those CTL payers face breach of contract under the CCA constitution. Notice “and its participants” that covers the 90% that are not financial members; i.e. CCA represents you regardless of your membership status. So you cannot represent yourself even if its a matter of Property??

    So it stands to reason – no normal organization of the type mentioned by Eion in his comment above has this power, like charities … etc…; so why is CCA wielding this type of control and political power? And why does it want Tax funding?

    Here is the answer;

    17.1 Pursuant to clause 3.1(h) Cattle Council will act as the Prescribed Body within the Red Meat Industry MOU under the Australian Meat and Livestock Industry Act 1997 (Cth).

    Its achieved by the transfer of statutory power from the federal government to CCA by a Federal Act by its own admission; s69 then applies to Prescribed Bodies;

    Australian Meat and Livestock Industry Act 1997 (Cth) s69;
    69 Ministerial directions
    (1) The Minister may, in writing, direct a prescribed body to do the things specified in the direction.
    (3) The Minister must not give a direction unless the direction relates to one or more of the following:
    (e) any other matter with respect to which the Parliament has power to make laws under the Constitution.
    I could go and explain what that means under the Commonwealth Criminal Code; The Schedule; Charter 7; S 130 The Proper Administration of Government, but I fear it will take up too much space.
    So there you have it; these are not my words they are CCA’s own Constitution; I just thought everyone should know what it really means to contemplate this proposal of compulsory membership, and taxation funding of CCA. Rod Dunbar – Director – United Stockowners of Australia

  2. John Michelmore, 02/03/2017

    It should also be pointed out that in SA the government puts its hand into livestock producers pockets to fund the State farm organisations and CCA, with either an extra charge on NLIS tags,(recently increased to $1.50 per tag),or a sheep transaction levy.
    I don’t know how long it is going to take before the socialist concept of levies to pay for government prescibed representatives is going to take to die, but it seems that these so called representative groups will not be told that advocacy groups cannot be finded from taxes. While these groups continue to do this they will never truly represent the levy payer, because they can’t, they are in the pocket of government and can’t seem to grasp that fact!

  3. Eion McAllister, 02/03/2017

    For an industry that works in a very market forces environment I find it really contradictory for it to be so hell bent on a levy system that is compulsory and so much divorced from any market influences other than collecting money from every animal which is sold and often multiple collections across an individual animals lifetime as it is traded between producers. It would seem that without this source of funds which is essentially guaranteed, most producers would never contribute to any of the industry bodies that exist on a voluntary basis. That should tell us all something about the real value of these parties and organisations as perceived by producers. There are thousands of organisations around Australia which represent charities, political philosophies, environmental causes, industry lobby groups and the list goes on who do so without a levy based funding platform. Some of these are much more effective with their resources and our industry knows only too well the impacts that Animal welfare and environmental organisations have with political advocacy. They raise their own funds in a crowded market place through a wide variety of pathways. I might add that some of these are I think morally bankrupt, but they are legal and we should be capable of generating sponsorship, membership and donation for our industry needs just as they do. In fact with the army of “experts” employed by MLA and other industry bodies we should have an advantage. Instead we follow the same old narrow track of guaranteeing the platform which insulates their activities from the marketplace environment, guarantees they keep breathing despite their performance and ensures organisational bureaucracy is sustained. Governments just love having influence over funding because it allows them to facilitate where the money goes and to starve areas of funds or withdraw them if the outcomes are not suiting their wishes. Surely in this day and age our industry should not have its major organisations so tied to the umbilical cord of a government. For an industry which mouths the rhetoric of innovation and thinking outside the square, our governance structures are archaic and perform at a less than optimum manner. If we had effective industry representation we would not have many of the things that are done to us by politicians persuaded by interest groups occurring. We spend so much time on catch up and defensive endeavours in these situations. We are limited in how we are able to represent ourselves because our funding is tied to the requirements of federal law in how it can be utilised. If we are to be able to advocate for our own future and destiny then sticking with this levy based agenda will see more of the same and marginal change. Everyone involved is busy doing something but not actually achieving outcomes for the industry.

  4. Rod Dunbar, 02/03/2017

    “There were also concerns about whether it is appropriate for an industry advocacy organisation to be funded via a tax that is collected compulsorily”

    Thats an understatement!
    So the contemplation after all this time still is, compulsory membership, compulsory contributions; a national compulsory cattle government to advocate politically, for and on behalf of the collective.
    This is surely a joke?

    “grassfed levy funds are generated by growers for industry purposes, but collected and overseen by Government and technically classified as tax money in the eyes of Government”

    Thats bending the facts! The CTL is a Tax per se. It is an Excise under the Constitution and Taxation cannot be used for political purposes. Section 55 expresses that principal. The fact is all your RMAC entities must be prescribed as federal government entities to spend the current CTL; and you are.

    Another fact is – you do not have the majority support to affect your plan; if you did it would already be in place; you can’t even identify the entities whom you propose to represent; in desperation you say the ID will be the PIC; are you certain there is only one CTL payer per PIC?

    Our subscribers do not support this proposition and never will; we believe it will take a little more than your 10% minority to achieve your plan; we do however support the immediate implementation of 2,3,4,5,6,7 of the 2015 Senate Committee Recommendations. Rod Dunbar – Director – United Stockowners of Australia

  5. Sandy Maconochie, 01/03/2017

    Credit due to this committee for trying to formulate a funding solution. Unfortunately it seems the CTL is still on the table when surely they must know that no incumbent minister will ever sanction a tax for advocacy purposes. If they must, take the levy back to $3.50 where it was previously, then find a way of collecting the $1.50 for the new entity to utilise. An incumbent minister will go with this. Personally l am comfortable with the current structure with MLA, AHA and NRS. That aspect isn’t broken. Has this committee tried structuring a model that has directors sitting on an honourable basis for the good of their industry? Indeed proceeds from the RMAC fund will go a lot further. Industry forums, both regionally and an annual national showcase along with membership fees. Realise these and other models have been exhausted over the many years since this process began, but surely time is up.

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