Levy report reaction ranges from praise to disappointment

James Nason, 11/09/2014

cattle_s07The big changes recommended to Australian grassfed cattle industry levies and structures by the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport committee on Tuesday have sparked wide-ranging reactions from cattle sector groups.

Reactions received by Beef Central in the past 24 hours range from praise to disappointment.

Here is what various key stakeholder groups have had to say:

The Australian Beef Association told Beef Central it sincerely applauds the Senators of the Rural and Regional Affairs Committee for their far-reaching report, and said agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce should be congratulated for his role in acknowledging the need for a discussion and encouraging the Senators to hold the inquiry.

“ABA’s long battle for a change to how the cattle producer was represented, and by whom, has been vindicated,” ABA spokesperson Linda Hewitt said.

“ABA’s members and supporters deserve special mention for their persistence and support.  We encourage Minister Joyce to follow the recommendations through, and acknowledge that this is not the end, but will be a new start for Australia’s grass fed cattle producers.”

AgForce Cattle president Howard Smith said he was fairly disappointed by the Committee’s recommendations.

Mr Smith said it seemed that very little fact checking had occurred in the report, with many opinions and suppositions reported as fact without any evidence of ground-truthing or peer-review.

The Central Queensland cattle producer said it was important the industry take ownership of its own affairs and reform process.  “The worst phrase you can hear is ‘We’re the Government and we’re here to help’”, he said. “They can build what ever they like, but it is still going to need the people to run it and if the industry is apathetic, then you get what you get.

“I would hate to think we are going to miss this opportunity to get proper reform through the industry.”

Mr Smith said the recommendation to establish a new producer body underpinned by legislation was concerning. “I can’t see how as a lobby group that you can be legislated by Government. At the stroke of a pen by a minister you could be out of business. That is one I struggle with because we need total autonomy as a peak council.” (The AgForce Cattle Council will meet tomorrow to formally discuss its response to each recommendation)

The Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association said it welcomed the release of the Senate report and was pleased that many of its comments and recommendations had been considered.

In a statement outlining its reaction to each recommendation, the NTCA said that on face value, the recommendations appeared to be a step in the right direction. However, the implications of implementing each of the recommendations would need to be closely considered.

The NTCA said it was important that the reform process now move on, and not be further delayed by the recently announced new Senate inquiry into all agricultural levies in the agricultural sector.

The NTCA said the first recommendation to form a new producer owned and elected body to control all grassfed producer levies closely aligned with the NTCA’s position.

“(We) reiterate that reforming the Cattle Council of Australia to achieve these outcomes should be examined as part of this process.

“It is imperative that the body is better resourced in order to improve capability to deliver better outcomes.

“The NTCA believes it critical that Industry and producers maintain independence from government control, enabling an open and full representation of industry to government and other key sectors.” (The NTCA’s full statement on all recommendations can be viewed here)

NSW Farmers’ Cattle Committee Chair Derek Schoen said the association will work with the Minister to progress the industry reform process.

“The senate inquiry has recommended a major overhaul of the levy system for grass fed cattle,” Mr Schoen said in a statement to Beef Central. “We have engaged constructively with the Senate Committee during the process of this inquiry and we will now continue our discussions directly with the Minister to achieve the best possible outcome for the industry.”

In contrast to the NTCA position that cattle industry reform must now move ahead and not be delayed by the forthcoming Senate inquiry into all ag levies, Victorian Farmers Federation livestock president Ian Feldtmann said the findings of this review should be put on hold until that inquiry is finished.

“The recommendations should not be explored further until the current inquiry into all ag levies and the agricultural representation review are completed,” Mr Feldtmann said.

WAFarmers Meat Council representative to Cattle Council of Australia, Geoff Pearson, told Beef Central that it was hard to see how establishing a new body as recommended by the Senate Committee would benefit the industry.

“We don’t really want to be establishing new bodies considering that we already have CCA and MLA,” Mr Pearson said.

“I think we need to consolidate and use the existing organisations to their full potential.”

In comments to ABC Radio, chairman of the WA Pastoralists and Grazier’s Association‘s Livestock Committee, Digby Stretch, said the recommendations would help to improve transparency for producers. Levies had been ‘contentious for some time’, he said, because producers often did not see the value they received for the levies they paid.

“In that way producers need to have a bit more transparency and more feedback in where the levy recipient is spending money on their behalf.”

New Senate ag levy inquiry will not revisit grassfed beef

Speaking to Beef Central earlier this week, Senator Glen Sterle, who will chair the next Senate RRAT Committee inquiry into all agricultural levies, said that in his opinion, the grassfed cattle levy issue has now been fully covered.

“We will not be revisiting the grassfed levy, we are not going anywhere near that,” he said.




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  1. Philip Downie, 18/09/2014

    I would suggest the wheat industry is a prime example of SFOs and others all having differing opinions and made it very easy for the Govt to just get rid of it because there was no unity and that suited their purpose anyway. A single entity with State affiliates may be the way to go then every one is on the same page State bodies may have an internal opinion but not an external one. There were several failures for live cattle and it was not all political but MLA let us down with their boxes, no single voice which
    prevented (to use a Tony term) seeing the goodies from the baddies and isolating the baddies until they got their act together, the politics I will leave alone but knee jerk would be a good description.

  2. John Michelmore, 13/09/2014

    Goodness Leon, The existing structure aided the ease with which Ludwig stopped live export. RMAC was useless in this instance to the livestock grower. You just don’t get it, a levy supporting SFO’s means they become less accountable to livestock producers that’s all. Why do you think there is now a lot of representative bodies including many whom are self funded; its because the majority want democracy and funding any representative body with levies will lead to further adverse reaction from the 90% of farmers that have just had enough of being excluded from consultation because government and the “industry” consult , and yet the “industry” government consults represents less than 10% of farmers?

  3. Leon Clothier, 12/09/2014

    Disappointed not to see a 50c allocation from the $5.00 levy to fund relevant state farming organisation. This IS able to be done with an “opt out” clause on each & every vendor declaration.
    As far as I am concerned this exclusion from the new structure over looks the fundamental need for effective State Farming Organisations. Do we EVER want a repeat of the ALP’s live cattle fiasco in this country??
    United we stand…Divided we fall!

  4. john carpenter, 12/09/2014

    Very good question Grant and in a free country you should be able to.

  5. Grant Piper, 11/09/2014

    Fragmentation is fine, better than supposedly being represented by a dysfunctional self-serving peak body or similar quasi-farmer representative bodies. My preference would be for NO statutory levies, just as there shouldn’t be compulsory unionism. If there is to be a mandatory levy, you choose the organisation you wish it donate to. Those organisations that fail to attract and serve their members, dies. Many farmers voluntrarily pay to suppport the ABA and the NTCA, as these groups are doing the work the SFO/NFF/MLA/CCA et al are not doing. Why can’t I give my levy money to them?

  6. Alan Smith, 11/09/2014

    The Beef Central article references no less than eight “key stakeholder” organisations and committees. Surely such fragmentation speaks volumes about our industry representation problems.

  7. Rob Moore, 11/09/2014

    I feel that the results are very sound and way overdue. Recommendation 7 is where the real results will flow from and I am counting on that being worth at least $3-400 extra per head due to competition. I had a key role in presenting this to the inquiry -even though it was slightly out of the guidelines on levies. CCA and MLA have demonstrated their duplicity and lack of urgency by -after being shamed by my efforts from the last 10 months in writing and pushing my PPP Project- they got shamed into issueing a tender based on material that I had submitted earlier. They broadened it out and made it shallow and made it an “Inquiry into whether we need an inquiry” I was forced to tender for my own scheme and naturally they had no intention of letting me near it! More to come on this ………………………. Bottom line from the inquiry is that – If we must have levies- only levy payer will have a say according to how much they put in. No more processors at our trough either!

  8. john carpenter, 11/09/2014

    Panic stricken damage control by the state farming organisations won’t work.The genie is out of the bottle now and fundamental reform is inevitable.Some of the responses from the SFO spokesmen indicate that they just don’t get it.The party is over boys.

  9. John Michelmore, 11/09/2014

    I think all those that are disappointed may well change their minds if they knew what was in the confidential and unpublished material supplied to the Senate Inquiry, especially when zero change now means government would be condoning all that has happened in the past.
    In reality what John Anderson “constructed” in 1997 with the AMLI Act 1997 has not worked and could not work.
    Now that government has the information; they have little alternative but to fix it.

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