The Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association has reiterated its call for the role of the Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC) to be reassessed, building on concerns expressed by members at its annual general meeting in March.
The NT producer group, speaking after a meeting with the Cattle Council of Australia in Alice Springs last week, is also backing calls for a percentage of producer levy funds to used to “power up” the resourcing of state and national representative bodies.
RMAC is a national peak body established in 1998 to provide a single, united voice for the various sectors of the red meat industry on issues of importance to Government.
The six groups it represents are the Cattle Council of Australia (grassfed cattle producers), the Australian Lot Feeders Association (grainfed cattle producers), the Australian Meat Industry Council (red meat processors), the Australian Livestock Exporters Council, the Sheepmeat Council of Australia and the Goatmeat Council of Australia.
RMAC was formed to allow the red meat industry to speak to Government with one voice instead of six different voices when each sector held a uniform position on an issue.
However, the council is unable to speak on behalf of the industry when consensus between all members on an issue is not achieved.
NTCA members expressed concern at the association’s annual general meeting in Darwin earlier this year about RMAC’s inability to speak on behalf of producers and live exporters during last year’s live export ban, because the processing sector did not support their calls to end the ban.
NTCA chief executive officer Luke Bowen said the association believes an assessment should be made of RMAC’s relevance, functionality and performance against its strategic plan.
“Cattle producers are really questioning the need to be joined at the hip with the processors in these structures, and whether we should be separate,” he said.
The Cattle Council of Australia, through a six-person “writing group” established in mid-July, is currently drafting a model to replace the existing Cattle Council of Australia and a Beef Industry Strategic Plan, building on the results of a four-month consultation process conducted with grassfed producers earlier this year.
While details of the draft restructure model have not yet emerged, it is clear that a central component will be a plan to use part of the $5/head cattle transaction levy to fund cattle industry representation in future.
The legality and practicality of using funds collected via a compulsory levy for industry representation and lobbying purposes has yet to be determined, as does the question of whether it will be supported by both industry and government.
However, for its part, the NTCA believes the concept offers a potential solution to providing the resourcing the state and national representative bodies need to drive better advocacy and policy.
“There is a need for a realignment of resources to power up the representative bodies so they can give stronger direction to the peak service providers, such as Meat & Livestock Australia, and to Government,” Mr Bowen said.
Details of the Cattle Council of Australia's draft restructure proposal are expected to be emerge in coming weeks.