Grassfed restructure: funding a big step forward, but questions remain

James Nason, 02/11/2017

LONG-RUNNING efforts to create a new directly-elected body to represent all grassfed cattle producers across Australia took a small but significant step forward with the awarding of a $500,000 Federal Government grant toward the process last Friday.

The grant does not solve the outstanding question of how the new peak body, to be called Cattle Australia, will be funded in the long-term.

But it will provide the seed funding required to kick start the next stage of the restructure process, by providing funds to, among other things, establish a steering committee, employ a project manager and to pay for the development of a new constitution and business/funding model.

Details of exactly how the $500,000 will be spent are said to still be subject to further negotiations with the Department of Agriculture, but what is clear is that the industry is now working towards a two-year time frame to deliver Cattle Australia as a new peak council for grassfed cattle producers by late 2019.

It is understood that the new body will incorporate a directly elected board (as opposed to the primarily State Farm Organisation appointed board of CCA), made up of regional councillors and supported by technical committees.

A significant consultation process with all cattle industry levy payers is also planned over the next two-year period.

Getting to this point

Getting to this point has been largely the result of work by the industry restructure “Implementation Committee” established by then ag minister Barnaby Joyce in late 2014.

The committee brought together representatives of several disparate cattle industry groups, with the task of reaching an agreed path forward on a new structure to represent all grassfed cattle producers nationally.

Asking different groups with entrenched, contrasting views and long histories of disagreement to reach a unified position was never going to be smooth sailing.

However, the various groups did reach agreement on a unified restructure model which was presented to the Minister in February 2015, and which remains basically the same planned structure that will underpin the new Cattle Australia.

Debate since that time has focused largely on how to get there and how to fund it.

The members of the IC have also jointly succeeded in getting funding to kick start the next stage of the restructure process.

The committee has worked behind closed doors, and its members have largely kept internal committee matters private throughout the course of its nearly three years of deliberations.

However some simmering discontent and distrust has been evident between different groups on the committee in the wake of last Friday’s $500,000 announcement.

Some IC members have voiced anger that a CCA media release welcoming the $500,000 grant last Friday did not acknowledge the voluntary work performed by other IC members, in particular Loretta Carroll and Norman Hunt, in writing and submitting the application that ultimately resulted in the $500,000 funding.

It is understood the CCA did not support the IC’s initial funding application, because it believed that the $500,000 sought was not adequate to support the goal of developing a long-term sustainable funding stream. The $5m fund was initially proposed by the Minister’s office to help with the grassfed restructure process, before being broadened to include all agricultural sectors when it was introduced. It is understood the CCA believed a greater share of the $5m fund was needed to improve the chances of success of the restructure. However, the disagreement caused delays that put the grassfed industry in danger of missing the funding application deadline altogether, and potentially losing any share of the $5m.

Ultimately the CCA and the IC members submitted a joint application which was successful in being granted $500,000 to go towards the creation of the Cattle Australia model. (In total 27 ag groups received funding of between $100,000 to $500,000 under the $5m Leadership in Agriculture program).

Cattle Australia: a brand new entity or a restructured CCA?

Perhaps the biggest point of lingering disagreement surrounds whether Cattle Australia should be formed from scratch as an entirely new entity, as recommended by the recent Senate inquiry, or as a restructured version of the peak council, Cattle Council of Australia.

Earlier this year CCA suggested to the IC that it would be faster, cheaper and more efficient to transition CCA into the new organisation, Cattle Australia, rather than go through the process of starting an entirely new organisation from a clean slate.

Arguments in favour were that it would less cost to restructure the existing CCA into a directly elected structure, would not require extensive renegotiations of all industry agreements and Memorandums of Understanding as a new organisation would, and would get to the end point much faster than by establishing an entirely new organisation.

Arguments against included that an independent Cattle Australia is what was originally agreed to by the IC in February 2015, and that a new organisation with a new culture and fresh start was needed to win the support of a broad base of cattle producers. Continuing CCA in a new form would be seen by producers as “more of the same” and would not be accepted as the clean change the grassfed industry was seeking.

At its last meeting on September 18 the IC committee voted on the creation of a new fully independent Cattle Australia, as opposed to a rebadged CCA, with a result of 9 votes for, and 4 against.

Members of the committee have indicated it was also agreed that the results of that vote would be made public, but that had not happened.

A key question now is what level of power does the IC have to decide the future of the grassfed process?

Some members of the IC have told Beef Central it is their firm understanding that the committee has the power to decide the future of the restructure process, and the result of September 18 vote in favour of a cleanskin Cattle Australia is effectively now binding and should be the last word.

Others however say the IC was established as an advisory group only with no legal standing, and the vote held by telephone could not be regarded as a formal, binding vote.

It is a question perhaps best directed to Mr Joyce, who was forced to depart from Parliament over the dual-citizenship issue last Friday.

Asked yesterday what level of authority he understood the IC had, Australian Meat Producers Group representative, IC member and solicitor Norman Hunt, said the IC was not enshrined in legislation but said the application for the $500,000 in funding was lodged “in contemplation of the creation of a new cleanskin Cattle Australia”, as indicated by the Sep 18 vote, and not ‘a morphed CCA’.

In response to the same question Cattle Council of Australia interim CEO Margo Andrae said it should not be a question of new versus old, but rather what best delivers an effective peak body and how that is best achieved from a legal and funding perspective.

IC independent chair Troy Setter told Beef Central that the most important point was that the industry ends up with one democratically elected organisation that represents all cattle producers, and has peak council status so it can advise and lobby politicians, as well as being part of the RMAC group and having a strong connection with MLA.

How it arrives at that position was less important than ensuring it actually gets there.

“Getting there from CCA today, which currently fills that function and needs to keep filling that function until Cattle Australia is established, and ensuring that the cattle agri-political organisations and CCA all form into one grassroots organisation, is what is important.

“There needs to be a new organisation and a new constitution and direct membership.

“The exact corporate specifics of how you get there is still yet to be worked out.”



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  1. Euan Murdoch (Nindooinbah), 06/11/2017

    For CCA to be driving this process makes no sense. To state the obvious the issue for our industry is the CCA, its structure, process and inability too deliver.
    For CCA to be responsible for scoping the role of Cattle Australia is simply putting the cat amongst the chickens. For Cattle Australia to gain widespread support and industry endorsement it needs to be scoped by an body totally independent from CCA.

  2. Sandy Maconochie, 02/11/2017

    Chairman Setter seems the only person public ally making sense of all this. I don’t know who makes up his committee but he needs a medal trying to unite this mob. This IC committee needs to share its funding model (and not in any way levy related) to the wider cattle community in order to convince potential membership of Cattle Australia. Unfortunately so far it seems to be Rabble Australia. Credit where credit is due, CCA have done a lot of good over a long journey, it is just their election and funding models that have failed to represent all grass fed producers.

  3. Tim McHugh, 02/11/2017

    What a shame , once again the cattlemen and cattle women of Australia have been left out of the due process , no say whatsoever .
    Surely there should be a democratic process in place governed by our livestock industry who contribute all the funding .
    The Westminster system has run out of puff at all levels of governance we need to start afresh and get the power back to the people .

  4. Gary Ladbrook, 02/11/2017

    CCA need to be taken out all together,we don’t need any leftovers from them,there’s been other people from sensible groups having meetings with Barnaby also over the last 18 months over grassfed representation.

  5. don lawson, 02/11/2017

    the real issue is the question of a democracy beef producers pay a compulsory levy and we need an organisation where by a board is elected by levy payers and that a levy payers who wishes to stand can nominate

    the AWI model is democratic and has 9 years of stable leadership and a genetics evaluation system removed from breed societies, managed johnes far better than cattle council and has quietly working on mulesing they have prince Charles as the wool ambassador who do we have saying beef is good for you with a global profile????

    when benchmarked against the beef industry I am envious of my sheep producing friends who have democracy
    . if this fundamental issue of democracy is not addressed then the compulsory levy should go

  6. Rob Moore, 02/11/2017

    Two more years of compulsory unionism??? Why did we all bother with at least 3 RRAT senate Inquiries that Senator Sterle chaired and came up with bipartisan recommendations that no reasonable person could argue against? .Last week the AWI had a lynch mob of press and so called interested senators-trying hard to derail the process over a” storm in a teacup” beatup!.
    Being a wool grower too -it burnt me up that all these people never in the last decade would even cast a glance at the decadent wasteful MLA spaghetti model that John Anderson set up 20 years ago. Having played the game hard-several years ago for reform-I got a very good lesson in this political “do nothing slowly” manifesto.
    It is a cruel form of abuse to those that have tried for so hard and long that this incompetent Ag minister can toss out $500K and let us go in circles for a futher2 years…………..The LEVY must be terminated UNTIL we get direct representation via the CTL contributions$value. This means that there must be proper recording to a PIC number of levies paid NOT the church plate. We have to get a national list of all PIC owners for Cattle Aust to communicate with.So until any data collection -electronic facilities are established to record levies-it will have to be “One Pic=One vote” for the board/regions representatives.
    Most importantly-( exactly as the AWI wool board does now)-we must have an initial poll to set what levy that we are all prepared to pay!$0-5 would be the options. In wool this happens every 3 years. An annual budget would set the R&D+marketing level-to be put out to tender at Cattle Australia’s request.

  7. John Gunthorpe, 02/11/2017

    It is good to read that Troy Setter is in favour of the IC decision to have a new organisation but equally disappointing to read the Margo Andrea, Acting CEO of CCA, says that the new organisation must deliver an effective peak body. This is the core of today’s problem and ACIC’s reason for agitating for replacing CCA as the peak council – CCA are not an effective peak body.

    This was ably demonstrated by the position taken by the 4 CCA nominees to the IC when discussing making an application for funding support the result of which is the $500,000 recently announced. CCA members of IC strenuously fought against making an application. In fact they left it to two of the non-CCA members to complete and submit the application.

    Remember these members are unpaid and giving of their time to the process for the good of our industry. CCA has paid employees who could have completed the application but did not offer their support. What more evidence do we need of the dysfunctional management of our peak body and the moribund nature of their board.

    We join with Brad to question the reason for the process taking a further two years. We are also concerned about the entrenched positions CCA adopt when negotiating the new organisation.

    It is time for the current CCA board to be replaced by an administrator charged with the responsibility of managing the peak body work until the new constitution is written and the elections for the 15 cattle producer board members are complete. Without the continuing CCA push back as experienced to date, the restructure should be complete within 9 months well before Barnaby Joyce returns to the polls for a full election of the federal house assuming he is successful in the current campaign.

    Through this process, the administrator would own the peak body and the state farming organisations would cease being shareholders of CCA. The avenue is created for levy-paying grass-fed cattle producers to own their peak body once the administrator has completed his task.

    A person for this role would need legal training and experience of the beef and cattle industry.. It would need to be a paid position and provided with the administrative support usual in these roles.

    We cannot permit the damage caused by CCA in recent years to continue. This proposal by ACIC will ensure the recommendations of the IC are realised and enacted with the minimum of disruption.

    The Minister when he returns from New England has the power to enact this plan. His office would need to support the administrator as he creates Cattle Australia. ACIC would certainly throw our support behind their efforts.

    We need to stop the bickering and infighting and get Cattle Australia across the line.

  8. Will Robinson, 02/11/2017

    It would appear that a strong focus on growing grass in the first instance, would deliver an even stronger body of grass, leading to a stronger body of grass fed beef producers? There may be merit in working on the grass first and the politics and politicians later – with a good body of grass it seems that the graziers may not have to rely on Canberra quite so much. Jeremy Lee always told us that Canberra was historically a sheep paddock.

  9. Brad Bellinger, 02/11/2017

    This is unbelievable that it will take 5 years from the time that Joyce announced the forming of the implementation committee until anything is implemented (2014 to 2019).Very effective stalling tactics from Cattle Council.
    Of course by 2019 the polls would suggest that we will have a new government so all previous deals can be thrown out the window.
    In the mean time CCA will continue to put forward regulation and ideas that cost us money .The latest being the biosecurity rubbish, another $13m taken from producers pocket’s over 3 years with an audit that no one can comply with.

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