Opinion: A powerful voice representing cattle producers and beef lovers

Cattle Australia Director and Interim CEO, Adam Coffey, 16/10/2023

As custodians of 51% of Australia’s agricultural landmass, and the single largest contributor to the nation’s $95 billion farm sector, the grass-fed cattle industry is an economic and social powerhouse that has, for too long, had its voice muffled and diluted through its own inability to work collaboratively in advocacy and representation.

Today it is clear, grass-fed producers can simply no longer accept the risk disunity poses to our businesses and livlihoods, in an operating environment presenting more opportunities, and more challenges, than ever before.

In the past two weeks, Catte Australia (CA) held an Extraordinary General Meeting to approve constitutional amendments that were supported by 96% of voting members, to definitively move away from the representative difficulties of the past and position CA as a body with unprecedented industry backing and advocacy power.

This limited constitutional review proposed the introduction of the new Regional Consultative Committee (RCC) whereby 15 members are elected from sub regions across the country, by the members of those sub regions, and eight seats are held by State Farming Organisations (SFOs). The amendments were also the next step in creating what will be the most influential, democratic and, importantly, producer-led pathway to shaping policy positions, while driving meaningful engagement with industry and the broader community.

Nominations for the RCC close this Wednesday, with voting to occur between 27 October and 9 November, and members to be announced at our AGM mid-next month. Running concurrently with this process, is the nomination and election of two new CA Directors, one each from the North Australia Beef Research and the Southern Australia Livestock Research regions.

How will the RCC work?

The RCC structure is an expansion of the previous Policy Advisory Council and was proposed by the CA Board to address some concerns raised by individual members and SFOs, and the terms of the settlement agreement reached earlier in the year with Cattle Producers Australia. It creates a vehicle that will give producers themselves the most direct and transparent input into the representation of their industry in the recent history of cattle production in Australia.

While policy development will always be a critical function of CA, the RCC will have an expanded remit to drive engagement with producers and greater society, develop strategy, and enhance the frameworks and impact of advocacy on behalf of grass-fed producers. It will be an engine room of CA and a key conduit between our regions and our organisation, allowing for effective and efficient ideas-sharing on the critical issues raised by the grass-fed levy payers of Australia.

What the introduction of the RCC also delivers is a very clear point in time to collectively draw a line in the representative sand. After many years of debate, we now, through CA, have a body that has been formed by industry, for industry. The opportunity presented through the democratisation of our representation must now be seized – not just for the benefit of the broader agriculture sector but every grass-fed cattle business.

This is a sentiment I’ve continually heard echoed in my work as a CA Director, and interim CEO, when speaking directly with fellow producers in the regions. They are telling me they no longer have a tolerance for antagonism and instead want a reset and refocus on priorities such as markets, logical discussion on climate matters and fair and equitable representation on land access and ownership rights.

CA has been built to fulfill this need and I have been heartened to have seen an increased level of engagement from levy players and an optimism as to how effective and holistic representation is delivered.

Power through support

In 2024, we will be asking grass-fed producers and relevant stakeholders to join us through a fee-based membership model, to help fund the rapidly growing suite of requests we are receiving for representation on matters of national and international importance. As producers ourselves, the Board understands the tough seasonal and market conditions we are facing and are doing all we can to influence decisions and processes on the federal stage to ease pressure.

However, in many ways, this operating environment only reinforces the need for grass-fed cattle producers to collectively help fund the work of their new organisation, one that is laser-focused on growing the economic strength and prosperity of the businesses which make up our industry.

Membership fees and associated voting rights (which are capped) are proportionate to the number of stock within your enterprise. For example, my wife and I will contribute an annual membership to CA of $1,100 – an amount similar to what we already pay our SFO for critical representation on local issues. Whilst it’s another cost (of which we have plenty!), we look at these as investments that provide a return to our operation, much like supplements, fuel and other animal husbandry-related expenses.

It’s also critical I reiterate there is currently little-to-no funding for advocacy on behalf of grass-fed cattle – Australia’s largest agricultural industry. It is a common misconception these activities are funded through the $5 livestock transaction levy utilised by Meat & Livestock Australia, however this is not the case, and those resources are deployed for marketing, research and development. While CA does, as the legislated peak body, have oversight of this activity, it must be remembered levies cannot be used for industry policy and advocacy matters, leaving a gaping hole in our representation as a group of Australian businesses.

Agriculture’s most powerful advocacy body

The Directors of CA have put in place very specific goals and targets that have set the organisation on a path to becoming the most powerful advocacy body in Australian agriculture, along with financial targets to diversify income streams to fund our activities.

It is our firm belief now is the time to collectively roll up our sleeves and make sure what grass-fed producers have to say counts.

This year CA’s AGM will be held in Albury, New South Wales, on the November 17 and will incorporate a half-day forum, engaging speakers and the opportunity to speak with the CA team directly.

I look forward to seeing as many of you there as possible.

Cattle Australia director nominations close Wednesday

Cattle Australia is seeking nominations from eligible persons to stand for the two Directorships one in each of the northern and southern regions that are up for rotation per the constitution. Nominations close Wednesday 18th October 2023 with the successful candidates to take up their positions immediately following the 17th November 2023 AGM to be held in Albury NSW. To nominate and read the Terms and conditions of eligibility please refer to Cattle Australia website Elections – Cattle Australia


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  1. Don mcdonald, 19/10/2023

    Skin cancer research important in Queensland!

  2. Lillabelle, 17/10/2023

    Positive move. Lets hope the RCC and CA remain focused on producers and not become a political agenda for those in the front seat. Perhaps a move to deregulate the industry so producers and processors receive appropriate money for their livestock & services to safe guard livelihoods against these massive price swings in our industry …

  3. Peter F Dunn, 16/10/2023

    Very interesting proposal, for an industry which constantly and unfairly comes under fire.
    Ambitious, yes. Structurally embracing, yes. Potentially democratic, yes.
    Policy development through wide engagement, yes. Forward focus, yes. Economically aware, yes.
    Discussion on climate matters, no compromise. Land access and ownership rights. no compromise.
    On balance and at this early juncture, a reasonable person would be enthusiastic about this proposal.

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