News

Grassfed group launches social media campaign

James Nason, February 3, 2015

A group describing itself as a cattle industry think tank has launched a social media campaign urging the grassfed cattle industry to get behind moves to create a new cattle corporation to replace the Cattle Council of Australia.

The group, which uses the title the “Australian Meat Producers Group”, issued a media release to launch the campaign on Tuesday.

AMPG spokesperson, Central Queensland cattle producer Cameron McIntyre, said the group is voicing industry calls for agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce to implement the recommendations of the Senate Inquiry into grassfed cattle industry structures and levy arrangements, handed down in September last year.

The Senate committee’s first recommendation was for a producer owned body to be established by legislation with the authority to receive and disperse all grassfed levy revenue, which is currently received and managed by Meat & Livestock Australia, under the Cattle Council of Australia’s oversight. The committee recommended that “reforming CCA to achieve these outcomes” should be examined as part of the process.

The AMPG wants to see the CCA replaced entirely by a new Grass Fed Cattle Corporation which would receive all grass fed cattle transaction levies, with board members directly elected by levypayers.

Groups in favour of that position say it is the only way to ensure grassfed producers receive full control over the expenditure of their grassfed levies. A common concern voiced by grassfed producers to the recent Senate Inquiry was that sectors other than grassfed sector had too much influence over how MLA spends grassfed levies.

Opponents of the plan which include most, if not all, post-farmgate sectors of the beef industry supply chain say that removing grassfed levy revenue from MLA would effectively destroy that organisation’s ability to operate and would have major impacts on their sectors, upon which the grassfed sector relies to value add, process and market its end product.

The Cattle Council of Australia’s initial view to the inquiry was that relatively minor tweaks were required to existing structures to ensure growers recieved the level of control over grassfed levies they expect. The measures supported by CCA included allowing a portion of the grassfed levy revenue to be redirected to CCA to improve its resourcing and capacity to provide professional oversight of MLA, while it also called for the Memorandum of Understanding between MLA and CCA be strengthened to compel MLA to act on CCA’s instructions on grassfed levy expenditure. Under the existing MOU, MLA is only required to meet with CCA, not necessarily to do what CCA tells it to do.

In the wake of the Senate Inquiry’s recommendations, CCA sent out a letter to other industry groups indicating that it had changed its position in order to allow the grassfed sector to move forward with a consensus position, and supported the concept of the full levy being paid to a reformed version of CCA – the major reform being a change from a board dominated by State Farm Organisation appointed directors to a board of fully independently elected directors representing each cattle producting region.

However, since that position was made known it has attracted significant opposition from the downstream sectors of the chain.

CCA is yet to publicly clarify where it now stands.

In the meantime groups like ABA and the AMPG are now using a social media campaign to ramp up support for their favoured position that a new body be established to manage the grassfed levy.

The AMPG also involves Sydney solicitor and long-time cattle industry Norman Hunt.

Its social media campaign via a Facebook Page and Twitter account is directing producers to visit the website http://www.cattlelevysenateinquiryinformation.com/ established by the Australian Beef Association.

“Minister Joyce is to be congratulated for his leadership in acting (by establishing the Senate Inquiry) on the failures of the current system,” Mr McIntyre said.

“In 2013-14, grass fed cattle producers made up $61.5M of Meat and Livestock Australia’s $117.5M levy income. But despite contributing more than half of the income, grass fed producers received very little of MLA’s output.

“At the same time, Australian producers are slowly going  broke, last year receiving less than $2/kilo for liveweight steers, almost half the returns to US producers for similar stock. Producers are exiting daily – and urgent action is required to restore our sustainability.

“Cattle producers desperately need a well-resourced, accountable body with a sharp focus on improving profit in the industry. In short, we need to follow through on the Senate Committee recommendations for a Grass Fed Cattle Corporation directing its energies towards strategies that restore the future of grass-fed beef production in Australia,” he said.

Other recommendations from the Senate Inquiry included the need for an automated cattle transaction levy collection system, and other measures to ensure a transparent, well-funded advocacy and policy setting body charged with market development programs including providing market data and information that puts local producers on an equal footing with their US counterparts.

At a closed industry meeting in Brisbane prior to Christmas, the Minister gave Cattle Council of Australia until mid-February to return to him with advice on options for representation of the grassfed industry by the council.

The Department of Agriculture was also instructed at that meeting to look at the Memorandum of Understanding between MLA and CCA to assess the capacity it currently provides for all relevant grassfed industry groups to provide input to the activities of MLA. He also asked the Department to look at various funding mechanisms to enhance the capability of relevant industry groups.

The Minister has also made it clear throughout the restructure process that if possible he wants all grassfed groups to come to him with a united position on restructure, rather than having to impose a decision himself on a divided industry.

CCA and ABA are expected to meet again privately next week to discuss their positions and whether common-ground exists in their position.

As the mid-February deadline approaches, the AMPG says it and other cattle producing representative bodies are voicing support for:

  • the adoption of the Senate Inquiry recommendations;
  • The establishment of Grass Fed Cattle Corporation with a voting structure that gives producers direct input into the new Corporation’s direction and annual programs; and
  • A Memorandum of Understanding to be drawn up which supports an effective and full transition of grass fed cattle producer levies to the new Corporation.

“When Minister Joyce agreed to initiate the Senate Committee Inquiry at a meeting of cattle producers in Townsville last year, he stated that it was time that the long debate over grass fed cattle levy funded representation was resolved and that cattle producers would have to be content to abide by the Senate committee umpires ruling on the changes that needed to be made.

“There is no doubt that Minister Joyce is determined to act in the industry’s best interests but cattle producers do need to publicly support these much-needed reforms recommended by the Senate Committee,” said Mr McIntyre.

“There can be no doubt that this is a life-or-death development for many cattle producers – so we are urging industry to join with the AMPG and other like-minded cattle industry representative bodies via our web, facebook and twitter outreach cattlelevysenateinquiryinformation.com to give the Minister all the support we can to get these recommendations through Cabinet and into reality.”

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Edgar Burnett, February 9, 2015

    Rick, the reason why there are so many lobby groups turning up is indicative of what Producers think of the the bodies who have been “representing” them in recent times. Take a leaf out of the Northern Territory Cattleman’s Assn’ Book – give the Grass Roots a fair go and your Organisation ends up driven by the Grass Roots. I would like to see the NTCA go National so that Northern Australian Cattle Producers have got one voice with an abundance of Grass Roots support.
    The LNP have been trying to get rid of the Katters out of Parliament (Bob for decades now) and the main reason why they have not been able to, is because they both listen to their constituents. In the Qld Election, while many LNP MPs were getting turfed out, young Robbie and Shane Knuth did very well.

  2. Edgar Burnett, February 9, 2015

    Good point Bill – I should have said that Producers should only pay for the promotion of CATTLE, either on the hoof or on the hook. I thought it might be you Bill – we are still surviving – lets hope we are heading into much better times.

  3. Eric (Rick) Britton, February 5, 2015

    Edgar, is right if the major process want EU & Grass fed certification meat, they should have to pay for the audits & certification not the producer.

  4. Eric (Rick) Britton, February 5, 2015

    Wont be long before rural industry will have more farmer lobby groups than farmer producers

  5. bill nicholas, February 5, 2015

    that means you are going to promote live cattle exports and not beef. they are both grass fed. that sounds a bit lopsided. how are you edgar

  6. Edgar Burnett, February 5, 2015

    When Twiggy Forrest sells his iron ore to the Steel-makers, does he pay for the promoting of the various products made out of the steel? I think not and the Grass Fed Cattle Producers should not have to pay for the promoting of beef. Let those who are in the business of selling meat pay for their own promotion. Cattle Producers should only pay for the promotion of selling CATTLE!

  7. Sally Black, February 4, 2015

    Why can’t this be a ‘United front United you rule, divided you fall’

  8. bill nicholas, February 4, 2015

    would someone tell me how we would get significantly more money for our cattle by setting up a grass fed cattle corporation

  9. Peter McHugh, February 4, 2015

    Many Thanks Beef Central for a fair exposure into the problems with the Grass Feed Cattle Levies not producing the required financial results for the Grass Feed Cattle man of Australia .
    . Hopefully, common sense will prevail amongst all parties working on the 7 recommendations from the Senate Inquiry, with the best outcome for the Australian cattleman & their families .
    I will send you a copy of Ashley McKay’s Submission to the Senate. This I believe, is a well balanced document from a Gentleman of the Bush. It is very easy to read & understand the problems that have risen from the unbalanced model put in place 16 years ago.
    Once again, many thank,
    Peter
    .

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