Opinion

Cattle Australia update: Where to from here?

Andrew Macaulay , 10/05/2022

Andrew Macaulay, Independent Chair of the Grassfed Cattle Restructure Steering Committee, outlines findings from the recent public consultation period and provides an update on the next steps in Cattle Australia’s development:

 

ENVIRONMENTAL sustainability, biosecurity and costs of production. These are just some of the areas that grass-fed cattle producers want Cattle Australia, the proposed peak body for the sector, to focus on when it launches in July 2022.

These insights, along with many others, were gleaned from the recent public consultation period on Cattle Australia’s work priorities, which invited producers and industry stakeholders to have their say on what Cattle Australia’s national focus areas should be to ensure the new entity could represent their interests and support industry growth.

The consultation process resulted in a strong level of interest in Cattle Australia from producers and industry stakeholders, with broad producer reach achieved – notably through the Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) databases, which allowed information to reach over 200,000 subscribers. The Restructure Steering Committee conducted numerous engagement activities, such as webinars, a nationwide advertising campaign in print and digital media, regular stakeholder briefing sessions, attendance at industry events and regular newsletters to support industry participation and engagement. These activities resulted in 200+ submissions and correspondence being submitted to Cattle Australia for consideration and close to 500 levy payers registering their interest in receiving regular updates on the new entity.

The public consultation period has done exactly what the Restructure Steering Committee intended it to do – it has helped raise awareness of Cattle Australia’s purpose, objectives, and remit, as well as unearth what grass-fed cattle levy payers require from their peak industry body to futureproof the industry. It has also reinforced the need for Cattle Australia, an organisation committed to providing a visible, unified, and influential voice for producers as well as clear leadership and direction for the broader grass-fed cattle industry. Producers have spoken and they want a peak body that offers inclusion, producer representation, and strong industry advocacy and this is what Cattle Australia has set out from the get-go to deliver.

The feedback received has been incredibly valuable to the Restructure Steering Committee, who have been using it to inform discussions on Cattle Australia’s organisational design, constitution, priorities, and funding model. Some key decisions made by the Restructure Steering Committee in relation to these areas include agreement on membership eligibility (all payers of the grass-fed levy will be members of Cattle Australia and entitled to a vote) and identification of membership categories (Cattle Australia will have Industry and Associate membership categories).

Submissions received during the public consultation and stakeholder engagement process will also guide the Restructure Steering Committee as it directs its attention to drafting the constitution, securing medium-term funding, and creating a database in collaboration with MLA and other industry groups to help facilitate democratic elections.

With the intended launch date of Cattle Australia rapidly approaching, the Restructure Steering Committee is also focusing on what the transition process will look like for the transfer of Cattle Council of Australia’s (CCA) responsibilities to Cattle Australia. The Restructure Steering Committee have identified a phased approach which means a Board transition process will be required between CCA and Cattle Australia post-1 July to allow time for the election process to be fully developed and implemented. Discussions with CCA on this process are ongoing but both parties agree that this is our one chance to realise a new peak body for the grass-fed cattle industry that represents the interests of all Australian cattle producers, so it’s important that we proceed carefully to ensure we get this right.

One of the members of the Restructure Steering Committee described the Committee’s role as being responsible for putting together all the different puzzle pieces to create Cattle Australia. I agree with this analogy, but in reality, there is added complexity, as some puzzle pieces aren’t always easy to identify, some change shape after you think you’ve put them in the right spot and others we may not even know about yet. This means that what fits well and looks right initially can, after further consideration, consultation, and observation, require reworking. Fortunately, the public consultation process has reinforced that we are working on the right puzzle, and we do have the right pieces – now, it’s just a matter of putting them together in a way that not only realises an influential, representative peak body, but also strengthens industry support, cements confidence, and builds long term respect and support for the new organisation. This is why, although the consultation period has closed, the Steering Committee will continue to liaise with stakeholders as the development of Cattle Australia progresses.

It is exciting to see Cattle Australia take shape and become a peak body that will allow the sector to elevate its national policy priorities and industry advocacy efforts and ensure grass-fed levies support grass-fed producers and a stronger grass-fed economy. On behalf of the Restructure Steering Committee, I would like to thank those who have submitted feedback on Cattle Australia during the consultation period. Your input is invaluable and will help us create an organisation that can achieve its mission of being the voice of grass-fed cattle producers, leading the cattle industry to a stronger, more sustainable future.

Source: Cattle Australia. For more information, visit website here.  

 

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Comments

  1. Alex Cowlishaw, 11/05/2022

    There obviously has been a lot of discussion about how this new body is going to represent grass fed cattle producers, & how it will be funded, who will be the representatives on the board etc, but do we have a clear & concise definition of exactly what constitutes grass fed cattle?
    I have not seen anything along this line in any publication so far & what will be the benefits for the purely commercial grass fed producers ?

    • Jock Douglas, 13/05/2022

      Alex, all cattle eat grass at one stage of their lives and for practical purposes the owners of cattle at this stage are grass-fed cattle producers. They are levy-paying grassfed cattle producers when these cattle change ownership. They have been paying much in levies with a constricted representation and a miniscule ability to influence how these levies are spent on their behalf. This is what the reform seeks to change.

  2. John Gunthorpe, 10/05/2022

    Just more padding and no details. For 7 months, ACIC members have been confronted by non-answers to the important questions concerning the new organisation.

    Their chair constantly tells us they are working on it. No more. This must end one way or another. There are no new details in what is written above.

    How is the new organisation to be funded in the long term? Are they going to continue the conflict of interest and rely on MLA project work to pay their wages? How will they determine where the levy funds are spent currently sent straight to MLA? Will voting be one levy payer, one vote? Why are they not calling for nominations for the new board of the new organisation? If they have 500 levy payers on their roll, why not ask these to vote for the new board positions? State government departments have all the PIC contact details for grass-fed cattle producers and could be used tomorrow to allow voting on the board positions. Indeed if 200,000 were contacted by the committee then why could these contacts not be used to poll for the new board positions.
    In our opinion no Cattle Council directors should be anywhere near the new board. Otherwise critics will say this is just CCA in another guise. As we understand the bush telegraph, the committee is planning to nominate interim directors to the new organisation with half coming from CCA. This is so wrong, and has the stench of SFOs and CCA doing deals with the committee. They are trying to kick the new organisation down the road. This is unacceptable and will be strongly resisted by those of us with a genuine desire to have a levy-payer owned organisation with a democratically elected board.

    If you or your organisation are of like mind, then we call on you now to make your views known either individually or collegiately. Speak out now, or always know you did nothing when the “gravy-trainers” kept control.
    Australian Cattle Industry Council

  3. Wendy Bowman, 10/05/2022

    Do we know how CA is to be funded?

    • Jock Douglas, 13/05/2022

      Wendy, my understanding of the funding proposed for Cattle Australia is this:
      Every grass-fed cattle transaction incurs a $5.00 per head levy. 50 cents of this would go towards running Cattle Australia on an ‘opt out’ basis. This would mean that while the full levy, currently $5.00, would still apply, any levy-payer could opt out of having 50 cents of that $5.00 transferred to Cattle Australia.
      To begin with though Cattle Australia would possibly access start-up funds from the MLA or RMAC grassfed cattle levy funds currently held as large reserves. And there was an allocation by Minister Littleproud to assist the reform process.

      • Rob Atkinson, 13/05/2022

        Yes Jock, and what a sensible, common sense approach to funding CA.
        Every grass fed producer should understand that this gives them voting rights and ‘ownership’ of the new organisation.

        • Mark Driscoll, 17/05/2022

          The ongoing restructuring process for the Grass Fed Cattle Industry seems to have ground to a halt of recent times. This is the feedback I am often confronted with from fellow cattle producers when the conversation relates to current industry topics.
          Cattle Australia from what I am led to believe published a Memorandum of Understanding as agreed to by the three parties, The Restructuring Committee/Cattle Council and Cattle Producers Australia. Are there more issues that maybe haven’t been resolved that we haven’t been privy to?

          The Agricultural Minister has given the green light by publicly advocating to proceed with the restructuring. He understands it will not be perfect first up but a mandatory 2 years review can recourse any oversights or changes needed. Obviously this process was never going to be easy, with perceived allegiances being hard to leave behind.
          For the sake of the many thousands of Grass Fed Businesses around Australia one would hope the Steering Committee would not be distracted by old school loyalties and push forward with haste as the proposed start up date is fat approaching.

          Mark Driscoll

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