John McGoverne’s appointment as Cattle Council’s Interim Chief Executive Officer will ensure we can get on with the transition to a new, stronger peak industry council by 30 June 2022.
After four years as Cattle Council’s Policy Director John will hit the ground running and give Cattle Council the continuity needed to ensure its important advocacy and policy work are still carried out for the benefit of our industry.
John has an in-depth understanding of our organisation and is widely respected as the best in the business in terms of agricultural policy. His appointment ensures an orderly transition of corporate and industry knowledge and skilled staff to the new peak body. John has the full support of the board and staff, ensuring stability at this critical time.
Travis dedicated much of his tenure and burned plenty of midnight oil to help create a new, united, more engaging, properly funded, and democratically elected Peak Industry Council to better represent cattle producers. He has laid the foundations for the new peak body in a staged process involving all our State Farming Organisation founding members as well as the other cattle industry groups.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has also been pivotal to the restructure process to deliver a stronger Peak Industry Council for grassfed producers. For the last 10 years, and after numerous Senate inquiries, we now have a minister delivering outcomes for reform of the peak body, rather than just promising it.
The minister brought the industry together through a series of roundtable discussions between CCA and other cattle groups led by Cattle Producers Australia. All of these discussions were progressed in good faith with common objectives and principles, creating concepts for a new Governance framework and funding.
The foundational work and a long line of meetings over 12 months were capped off with two Grassfed Cattle Industry Leaders Forums in September and October 2021, where State Farm Organisations and all national and state level cattle groups with an interest in national representation agreed to appoint a steering committee to work through the final issues in governance architecture to implementation.
Proper funding has always been a stumbling block to reform in the grassfed industry and while the minister has made it clear access to the compulsory levy is off the table, a voluntary levy that sits alongside the statutory levy is on the table. As a first step, the industry will need to demonstrate there is a strong majority support for changing the levy to install a voluntary element. A new peak body will also be permitted to draw loans from the Red Meat Industry Fund (RMIF) during the transition period as levy arrangements take effect. The minister has also offered to contribute towards funding the necessary consultations with producers and the work of the steering committee.
Cattle Council currently operates on less than $2 million a year, which allows it to hire six staff. This budget is drawn from SFO membership fees of $400,000, service level agreements with all levy recipient bodies (the lion’s share coming from Meat & Livestock Australia), and a declining RMIF dividend. For the work Cattle Council does, and to nationally represent a 20 billion dollar grassfed industry this is quite ridiculous. If we compare this to the $290 million budget of our service provider MLA, it is clear that to do the important roles of advocacy, policy development and levy oversight the balance is not right.
Of the red meat and livestock industry PICs, Cattle Council is the most poorly resourced when considering the job at hand, and by a considerable margin. For example, the Australian Meat Industry Council, representing meat processors, has a budget of $5 million allowing it to hire four times the staff and is much better resourced to advocate for its members. AMIC also has the resources of its own $20 million capital fund.
With over 51,000 cattle production businesses across the country, the grassfed cattle industry accounts for 69 per cent of all the businesses that make up the red meat and livestock industry. As producers we need to accept that we need to fund the peak industry body we desire. Considering current cattle prices, an investment of 50 cents per beast sold, would be a drop in the ocean for producers.
Unfortunately writing submissions, creating industry policy and dealing with government departments is hardly a glamorous job but it is essential work for the continued prosperity of our beef industry. If cattle producers want high-quality representation, they need to invest in it. The long-awaited levy payer register is also under construction and the Department will have completed 12 months of cattle transaction data by September 2022 so we can identify all grassfed cattle producers.
It is these arrangements and the work led by Travis in conjunction with Cattle Producers Australia chair Paul Wright that have helped position the restructure process to this advanced stage. It is this work that will continue in an orderly manner with the Grassfed Cattle Industry Restructure Steering Committee led by Independent Chair, Andrew Macaulay.
To achieve greater unity and engagement, democratic representation is essential. Only democracy can silence critics and build greater engagement. The strength of Cattle Council in the past has been the unity of our State Farm Organisation founding members and the value they bring through their networks and branch structures with producers. SFOs have and always will be a key part of the new industry model, but the peak body cannot be united and survive on SFO contributions.
While it is ambitious, we will be able to transition to a stronger and more powerful industry council by 1 July 2022. Cattle producers have certainly waited long enough for a properly resourced, united and democratically elected Peak industry Council to meet the needs of our grassfed industry.