Opinion: ABA wants referendum on grassfed restructure

David Byard, Australian Beef Association, 07/05/2019

In May 2019, Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) “answers critics” with a move for a directly elected board.

I noted an interesting point, the State Farmers Organisation (SFOs) will continue to contribute funding however, they have agreed to surrender their right to automatic board seats. Instead each State’s seat on the board of the peak industry council will be contested by producers standing for election and being voted on by producers in their state.

In 2014, a Senate committee previously recommended a restructure of the grass-fed cattle industry.

This led to an implementation committee consisting of a representative from different bodies all having input into creating a functional cattle producer body.  Although, at the time, the committee contained people who were opposed to change.

To me, a functional cattle producers organisation is an asset.

However, when one of CCA’s main roles is to oversee the MLA on behalf of the cattle producers, who contribute nearly $60 million dollars a year, via a compulsory levy, and then MLA gives over $1.2 million of these funds to CCA, around 40 percent of CCA’s budget. funnelled, through a service agreement, one is left in no doubt that CCA is in fact compromised and dysfunctional.

CCA has not specified the method by which the new grass-fed producer board will be directly elected.

One would assume that if CCA were to move to a directly elected board, that election process will be based on the model that they promulgated and promoted over the three years, when CCA was involved in the Cattle Producers Associations (CPA) implementation committee. The details of the proposed new CCA allocation process are very obscure or unclear.

Would it be possible that to actually vote on a directly elected board when a producer may have to belong to an SFO or pay a direct membership to CCA?

It has been suggested that the time has come for various groups who purport to speak on grass fed producers behalf, put up or shut up and put their industry support to the test.  However, it won’t be possible for any levy payers to make an informed choice until they are presented with all the facts and CCA spells out how the voting will be conducted and who will be eligible to vote.

Could I suggest a way forward?  All producers that pay a grass-fed levy should be identified and a referendum be conducted on CCA and any other models put forward by various grass-fed cattle producer representatives.

I note that AWI has been able to identify, producers for some years with this information coming from the levies collection unit, which of course is the Federal government organisation.

However, in the case of beef producers the levies collection unit has no idea, as to who pays what, why?

However, the levies collection unit is not the only body that can identify grass fed cattle producers or how much they pay.

National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) and Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) spring to mind, they have all information at their fingertips.

I propose, a one man one vote for a one-off referendum. This would allow a producer to present a receipt that would prove they had paid a grass-fed cattle levy in the current year to obtain their vote.

Could it be possible that other sections industry, government officials and politicians, shudder in their boots at the thought of a well-resourced functional cattle producers’ group, which could actually speak with one voice and wield enormous influence?

If we could identify producers and give them a democratic vote on what they desire, one question could be, would you like a proportion of your levies flowing into the MLA to be diverted into a peak Council and producers could be given an opt out clause, whereas if they choose not to pay towards a peak Council, they can simply direct their levies back into the MLA as normal.

* David Byard is the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Beef Association


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  1. Rod Dunbar, 10/05/2019

    no one wants to pay the levy per se! all that needs to be done is a web page on the Dept of Ag federal gov website where we can opt out of paying any levy at all and claim all our CTL back or for those that believe in it, leave it there if you choose to do so.
    dont need a referendum just a digital application to the levies collection unit to have it paid back where it belongs, in the producers bank accounts’

  2. Sue Grant, 08/05/2019

    David Byard is the only one standing up for cattle producers.He alone is the only one coming up with any form of constructive suggestion on how to level the playing field.It amazes me that people cant see that this is an industry in it’s death throes.

  3. Paul Franks, 07/05/2019

    NLIS systems and LPA (which is supposed to be voluntary so may not capture all PICs anyway) only concern themselves with PIC’s, not producers.

    You can have multiple producers under one PIC, so using PIC’s is not a very viable way to determine producer numbers. I really do not know of a fair system that could be implemented that could not be gamed by a producer group for their advantage. We have seen in politics how groups can manage to get their own way to the detriment of others.

    All I know for sure is huge big nationwide entities (like big government) seldom are good for an industry as widespread as the Australian beef industry.

  4. Greg Campbell, 07/05/2019

    The idea of all levy payers being eligible to vote for representatives of an umbrella cattle group, irrespective of other memberships, seems fair. One levy payer one vote is not however, in keeping with “he who pays the piper calls the tune”.
    I also think individual producers being able to opt in and out of a partial levy diversion to a peak body, and potentially change their minds periodically, would be chaotic from both an administration and budgeting perspective.

  5. Ian McKenzie, 07/05/2019

    Do we need a Cattle Council of Australia? One red meat organisation is enough. MLA could be restructured to represent all the Red Meat industry and be funded from existing Levies and managed by producer elected representatives who nominate and are duly elected.

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