Over the last few weeks there has been a lot of talk of what would happen is producers got hold of statutory cattle grass fed levy. Though one suspects there will be much to-ing and fro-ing and the tide will ebb and flow before anything is settled.
The possibilities are endless. However, what would happen if producers manage to get a hold on the levies along the same lines as live shippers and processors?
Firstly any changes will not occur overnight.
One of the first things if we are going to have any sort of democratic structure is that we must firstly identify all producers, big and small, who pay a five dollar levy.
The second step would be to give all producers who have been identified as paying a levy, to be given a vote for a new board of producers to actually run the new organisation and producers may even decide to pay less in levies.
People say that producers would not have the expertise to look after a $62 million organisation.
To my way of thinking, this is quite rude as there are many in the beef industry that have large turnovers and there may be others who may not have the same turnover but have more expertise in running a board.
However, people who feel that $62 million is too much for a producer board should remember that there will be an expert team working for that board that only makes the decisions on policy and experts will be there to carry out their wishes and give professional advice.
The MLA has the expertise over many years and can be given the role of providing R&D and marketing.
The only difference will be that the MLA will be paid by producers to provide a service for producers.
This is nothing new as processors and the live shippers have arrangements where they collect all their statutory levies and retain MLA as a service provider to carry out their R&D and marketing. The new producer organisation can ensure that anything that MLA is doing is in grassfed producer’ interests.
In its present form one could argue that the current MLA set up ensures that producers are doing the biggest majority of the paying and little of the saying.
Marketing under its present form, the MLA is very keen tell us how much the price of beef has risen, on domestic and overseas markets.
However this doesn’t help the producer who is struggling to make ends meet with drought and low cattle prices making a toxic mixture. Some sectors of the industry are getting all the profits. In the US consumers are paying less for their meat and producers are getting more for their cattle, approximately double.
Since the inception of MLA they have spent countless millions on R&D projects for processors to allow them to automate and cut their costs. The theory behind this is that producers will have the savings passed back to them in the form of better stock prices. This has never happened and is unlikely to happen under the present system that producers are forced to pay.
AusMeat is jointly owned by the processors and MLA and one could argue that the language and way they conduct their business helps processors more than it does producers. Things like butt shape trim before scales, the list goes on, are of great benefit to the processors and a great cost to producers.
In the US they have government graders and their dressing percentage averages over 60pc in Australia with Company graders one can hope for 52pc why?
One hopes the new revamped cattle producer board, CCA, may get involved in finding out how producers are advantaged or disadvantaged and take the necessary steps to ensure that producers are treated fairly by their service providers.
MSA as stated previously is one of the most progressive grading systems to be introduced, however the mafia of greed have had the capacity and the will to pull it apart and make it nothing like it was when it was first developed.
Company graders put in place senior MLA staff left in disgust, then we have MSA 3, 4 and 5 being thrown out, again the list goes on. The fact is MSA has not delivered a consistent product to local consumers.
The fact is that we need a combined industry R&D program for producers and processors but we must ensure that producer projects are of benefit to producers not just other bodies. A new cattle board could ensure such outcomes.