Cattle Council of Australia should be replaced as the grassfed cattle industry’s peak industry council by a new “a transparent and accountable producer-owned body” to be called Cattle Australia, and the Australian Government should provide immediate funding support to help the grassfed cattle sector to do this.
That is one of the major recommendations (published in full below) handed down this evening by Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee in its final report from its long running inquiry into the effect of market consolidation on the red meat processing sector.
Other recommendations deal with issues including post sale weighing, industry standards of practice and a review of the Red Meat Memorandum of Understanding.
Structures require ‘urgent reform’
The committee says it is has formed the firm view over the course of its inquiry that existing industry structures, roles and responsibilities – particularly that of Peak Industry Council’s in relation to the levy-funded service organisation Meat & Livestock Australia – require urgent reform.
The committee also believes that improving producer representational structures is critical if wider reforms are to be achieved and carried through.
“The committee is of the view that the proposed new representational body – called Cattle Australia for the purposes of this report – should be given the opportunity to work as intended,” the report says.
“For the body to take on the role of a properly representative body, it needs to be properly funded and have the structure necessary to be truly representative and consultative.
“To this end, the committee recommends that Cattle Australia be provided with adequate independent funding as soon as practical.
“With decisions currently being made about the use of substantial amounts of levy- payers funds including on technology such as DEXA, the committee recognises that there is some urgency for a well-resourced Cattle Australia to effectively represent the interests of grass-fed cattle producers.
“Moreover, once operational, Cattle Australia will be able to make appropriate, informed decisions on behalf of their levy payers about price transparency across the supply chain. It will be in a position to effectively guide and assess MLA’s performance in the expenditure of grass-fed cattle levy funds and to ensure greater transparency with regard to the use of levy-payers funds.”
The committee says Cattle Australia should develop an organisational and representative structure which is democratic and fully accountable to grass-fed cattle levy payers.
Under the leadership and guidance of a remunerated skills-based board, it said could be achieved by establishing:
- membership and voting structure to enable levy payers a direct say in the utilisation and investment of their levies;
- leadership body of elected members that reflects the unique geographic, demographic and economic makeup of this sector; and
- transparent reporting system to enable levy-payers to trace the utilisation and investment of their levies.
“Once Cattle Australia is established, with a membership structure in place, it should be officially recognised as the sector’s PIC under the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act 1997, and Red Meat MOU.”
The committee has further recommended that the Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association (ALPA) lead the development of industry Standards of Practice that cover all commercial transactions in relation to livestock – including online, paddock and saleyard transactions.
It says the Standards of Practice should include guidelines which encourage all parties to conduct transactions in good faith, do not mislead other parties, and ensure that all such transactions are negotiated under the law.
It has also recommended that Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce consider requesting Meat and Livestock Australia to conduct a study into pre- and post-sale weighing to provide the southern industry with an evidence-base on which to consider selling methods at saleyards.
The full list of recommendations is published below, stay tuned for Beef Central tomorrow for more analysis of the final report and industry reaction.
The full report was tabled in the Senate this evening and is expected to be published soon on the Committee Inquiry’s web page here.
List of recommendations
2.7 The committee recommends that the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources consider requesting Meat and Livestock Australia to conduct a study into pre- and post-sale weighing to provide the southern industry with an evidence-base on which to consider selling methods at saleyards.
2.103 The committee recommends that the Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association (ALPA) lead the development of industry Standards of Practice that cover all commercial transactions in relation to livestock – including online, paddock and saleyard transactions. The Standards of Practice should include guidelines which encourage all parties to conduct transactions in good faith, do not mislead other parties, and ensure that all such transactions are negotiated under the law.
4.108 The committee recommends that the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources conduct a review into the operations and capability of AUS-MEAT to determine whether it is the most appropriate body to oversight the installation, inspection, calibration, replacement and quality assurance auditing processes of the new DEXA technology. The review should also identify what reforms and resources AUS-MEAT would require to fulfil this role.
5.77 The committee recommends that the Australian Government provide immediate support, including appropriate financial assistance, to the grass-fed cattle sector in its efforts to replace Cattle Council of Australia with a transparent and accountable producer-owned body as the sector’s Peak Industry Council.
5.78 The committee recommends that the Australian Government officially recognise Cattle Australia as the grass-fed cattle sector’s Peak Industry Council under the Australian Meat and Live-Stock Industry Act 1997 and Red Meat Memorandum of Understanding once it is operational and has a membership structure in place.
5.88 The committee recommends that a joint industry and government meat and livestock task force be established to conduct a comprehensive review of all aspects of the Red Meat Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
5.89 As part of the Red Meat MOU review, the joint industry and government meat and livestock task force should consult widely across the industry and consider options for reform.
5.90 The task force should present a report to the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources within two years of its establishment. The report and its recommendations should be made public.
5.91 To ensure full transparency and encourage industry ownership over the reform process, the task force should endeavour to publish its preliminary findings during the review period as well as bi-annually.
The members of the Senate Committee are WA Labor Senator Glenn Sterle (chair), Qld Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan (Deputy Chair); WA Liberal Senator Chris Back (to 22 June 2017), WA Liberal Senator Slade Brockman (from 17 August 2017), Tasmanian Liberal Senator David Bushby (from 22 June 2017 to 17 August 2017), Qld Labor Senator Anthony Chisholm, NT Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, and Victorian Greens Senator Janet Rice. Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie also participated in the inquiry.
Statement from Senator Bridget McKenzie
In a statement released this evening Senator Bridget McKenzie said the purpose of the inquiry was to examine the red meat processing sector in response to meat processors’ boycott of the Barnawartha Saleyards in Victoria in February 2015.
“When nine meat processors all decided not to turn up to the Barnawartha saleyards, it was a watershed moment for producers, prompting me to initiate this Senate inquiry following an outcry from local farmers,” Senator McKenzie said.
Senator McKenzie said the committee inquiry, which received 122 submissions, was a key way forward for the red meat sector to regain the confidence of processors and farmers.
“Our report recognises geographic differences in red meat markets, structure and funding should reflect those differences.
“This is the eighth inquiry into the red meat sector and the time to get it right is now, farmers and others in the sector are relying on us and we will not let them down,” Senator McKenzie said.
The seven recommendations include a study into pre and post-sale weighing to provide an evidence-base on which to consider selling methods at saleyards, a key concern to producers in Victoria.
The committee recommends that a joint industry and government meat and livestock task force be established to conduct a comprehensive review of all aspects of the Red Meat Moratorium of Understanding within the industry to consider options for reform.
Senator McKenzie said the report along with an inquiry by the ACCC call for urgent changes to the way business is conducted at cattle saleyards.
“There must be simple, easily interpreted price grids ahead of livestock auctions, post-sale weighing and general transparency across the sector.
“That is the only way to return confidence to the red meat industry, a call echoed by the ACCC and supported by the Victorian Farmer’s Federation.
“I call on the industry peak bodies in the red meat industry to take up the challenge and support these recommendations to the sector.
“They cannot ignore the evidence to the Senate over the past two years or the recommendations of the corporate regulator.
“I have been supported in these calls by the ACCC and the VFF and now I hope that these changes will be made so the red meat sector can move on.
“There must be transparency, there must be changes and there must be ownership of these problems to resolve them and move on,” Senator McKenzie said.
*The Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee report, Effect of market consolidation on the red meat processing sector.