A forum to discuss the future of grassfed cattle levies in Brisbane tomorrow is already generating debate before it has begun.
Grassfed cattle industry representatives have expressed concern about the large number of non-grassfed sector stakeholders that have been invited to participate in the grassfed industry restructure meeting.
26 red meat industry groups and companies have been invited to attend the three-hour gathering which has been organised by agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce (see full list below).
The Minister’s office told Beef Central earlier this week that it had organised the forum to “better inform the Government’s response” to the first recommendation of the recent Senate Inquiry into grassfed cattle levies and structures.
That recommendation was for a producer-owned body to be established by legislation to receive and disperse grassfed cattle levy funds.
At present the funds are received and dispersed by the industry service organisation Meat & Livestock Australia, under the direction of the peak grassfed producer representative body, the Cattle Council of Australia (CCA).
The Senate Committee also recommended that a reform of CCA be examined as part of the process to create the new producer owned levy body.
Mr Joyce’s office said he had invited a broad-cross section of industry stakeholders to attend the meeting to ensure a fair representation of industry views would be heard.
The list of invitees has been circulated privately in recent days, prompting grassfed industry representatives to voice concern about the level of representation their sector will have at tomorrow’s meeting, which is dealing with a grassfed industry restructure process.
The invitation list seen by Beef Central this week lists the invited attendees as:
- Minister for Agriculture
- Minister’s Staff
- Department of Agriculture
- National Farmers Federation
- Cattle Council of Australia
- Australian Lot Feeders Association
- Sheepmeat Council of Australia
- Australian Live Exporters Council
- Australian Meat Industry Council
- Goat Industry Council of Australia
- Red Meat Advisory Council
- Meat & Livestock Australia
- Australian Meat Processors Corporation
- NSW Farmers
- Victorian Farmers Federation
- Livestock SA
- Northern Territory Cattleman’s Association
- WA Farmers Federation
- Northern Australia Beef Research Council
- Australian Beef Association
- Australian Meat Producers Group
- Australian Beef Industry Foundation
- Australian Registered Cattle Breeders Association
- Australian Agricultural Company
- Bindaree Beef
- Consolidated Pastoral Company
Beef Central understands that only the president or chair of each industry group has been invited, not those at CEO or management level.
Likewise, each State Farm Organisation in attendance will be represented by their general president, it is believed, and not their cattle section president.
The invitation sent to each attendee from Mr Joyce’s office provides limited detail about the forum itself.
It describes the purpose of the meeting as “a discussion regarding the Senate Committee’s report: Industry Structures and Systems Governing Levies on Grass-Fed Cattle”.
The meeting will open at 10m with opening remarks from the Minister, followed by general discussion and discussion focusing on recommendation 1 from the inquiry.
The full meeting has been allocated three hours, with proceedings to close at 1pm.
Self-interested groups hi-jacking grassfed restructure
Central Queensland cattle producer and CCA marketing, market access and trade consultative committee member, Ian McCamley, told Beef Central yesterday that he is concerned the voice of grassfed producers will be outweighed by the large number of non-grassfed sector stakeholders invited to the meeting.
“For some strange reason the vast majority on the Minister’s attendee list are not grassfed levy payers and do not represent grassfed levy payers,” Mr McCamley said.
“So yet again we will have a majority of self-interested people who don’t pay the levy and don’t represent the levy payers, given full access to lobby the Minister about who should be in charge of grass-fed levy expenditure.
“This is wrong. This is grassfed beef producers hard earned dollars we are talking about.”
Mr McCamley said the Senate Inquiry process had clearly shown that the current grassfed cattle industry structure had failed. It was ‘ridiculous’ for any group other than grassfed producers to oversee the expenditure of their grassfed levy.
He said the Minister had an opportunity to make generational change and show true leadership, and for the first time grassfed producer representative organisations were standing shoulder to shoulder with an agreed view on how the industry should be restructured.
“CCA itself has turned a corner with strong leadership backed up by a solid board which now includes two very capable independent directors,” Mr McCamley said.
“Clearly grassfed levy payers must be given the opportunity, and are ready to take responsibility for the collection and expenditure of their own money.
“It is now in the Minister’s hands.”
Why some groups and companies have been invited and others have not has generated discussion in recent days.
For example, one private meat processing company has been invited to contribute to the grassfed cattle industry restructure meeting, Bindaree Beef from Inverell, which is the largest processing company in Mr Joyce’s electorate of New England in northern NSW.
Of the State Farm Organisations on the list, the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association and the Pastoralists and Graziers Association from WA do not appear. (UPDATE: since publication of this article Beef Central has been informed that both TGFA and PGA will participate in the forum via teleconference)
CCA, ABA and the Australian Meat Producers Group have been working together in recent weeks to try to find common ground on a restructure plan that can satisfy the main recommendation of the Senate Inquiry (the creation of a grassfed producer owned and controlled group to take over full control of grassfed levy revenue).
Tomorrow’s meeting is likely to hear more details about how those privately-held discussions are progressing.