Grassfed levy payers get their say

19 Feb, 2015 03:00 AM
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Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Producers should be excited, because they are getting exactly what they wanted
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.

GRASSFED cattle producers are a step closer to directly electing who represents them on the industry’s peak body, following a watershed agreement by producer groups on arrangements for a new representation structure.

Lots of detail remains to be fleshed out around the agreement - notably, how the new body might be funded, and its relationship to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).

But the principle of a producer-elected peak council, announced in Canberra on Tuesday, is now certain to be at the centre of how Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce resonds to the recommendations made by the Senate Inquiry into disbursement of grassfed cattle levies.

The new body, codenamed 'NewCorp', will be built on a policy council made up of directly elected representatives from 15 regions.

Seven members of the policy council will sit on NewCorp’s board, with provision for two extra skills-based positions. A director appointed to the board on the basis of skills can also act as independent chairperson.

“It will give grassfed levy payers a direct say on how their money will be managed,” said Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) president Howard Smith.

“Prior to this, unless you were a part of a State farming organisation, you didn’t have that mechanism.”

“The keys to the industry are in the hands of the grassfed levy payers now. If their representative or their board don’t do a good job, they will be out in the next election.”

CCA reached an unexpected consensus on NewCorp with a cross-section of other producer groups, some of whom have been its keenest critics. All State farming organisations (SFOs), the Australian Beef Association (ABA), Concerned Cattle Producers and Australian Meat Producers Group (AMPG) have signed off on the concept.

“Producers should be excited, because they are getting exactly what they wanted - or we hope they’re getting what they wanted,” said ABA’s Linda Hewitt.

“Producers want total control of their money: that’s in the hands of the Minister, but they do have their own elected board.”

Barnaby rejoices

Mr Joyce’s relief at finding consensus within a tangled and often bitter debate was evident.

“It’s really an agreement of industry where the minister comes in with a bit of an imprimatur rather than stating what the minister wants,” he said after announcing the agreement.

“I’ve always said to industry, in any portfolio, when any minister makes a decision, you can bet your life everybody hates it, so I always prefer to have the industry come to their conclusion and work with them to finalise it.”

Much more debate is yet to flow under the political bridge - especially around the question of funding.

CCA has recieved about a third of its funding - $410,000 - from the SFOs, in return for the SFOs having a seat at the CCA table.

Under the direct-election model, those SFO seats will no longer be automatically available, and nor presumably will the funding.

NewCorp will need a new source of funding to replace the SFO money, plus extra - considerably extra, in the view of many - to function at a higher level than the financially-constrained CCA.

Access to levy funds

Grassfed producer groups have unaminously argued that the peak council should have access to a greater proportion of the levy dollar, if not all of it.

Just what that proportion might be is the next big reform question, Howard Smith said.

“The ball is in the Minister’s court as to how this new organisation is to be funded - whether it’s a portion of the levy, or all the levy. That’s all yet to be debated.”

Mr Smith, politically a product of the Queensland SFO, AgForce, thinks the change might be a shot in the arm for the State organisations.

“SFOs have been bankrolling all the peak councils; they have been paying the bills. And I think they could utilise all the money they spend back in their own organisations, or through more investment into the NFF, something like that.

“Eighty-odd percent of the stuff you deal with is a State-based issue anyway. SFOs are still going to be very relevant - and they can put up reps in the regions for election to the grassfed cattle peak council.”

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READER COMMENTS

angry australian
19/02/2015 8:23:33 AM

Finally Barnaby starts to learn the lesson of George III and the Boston Tea Party,"no taxation without representation". But Barnaby it might not be enough! Hardly any point taxing farmers to fund bureaucracies, even producer dominated ones if the levies aren't tied to profitability/productivity increases. And it has to be "politician and DAFF proof".Similar promises were made to the fishing industry prior to the formation of AFMA in 1992 and subsequent governments eroded the promises on the recommendation of the Department.If my memory serves me correctly the same applied at the MDBA!
pepper
19/02/2015 10:52:02 AM

There seems to be a very fundamental missing in all this posturing and bureaucratic alignment.....grass fed has been around since there was a moo in the cow: two questions .. Why do we all of a sudden need a levy and who are the beneficiaries? It's not going to change one iota of productivity but will be more cost for the small producer. As the small processors are taken out by the foreign corporations there are minimal remaining market options for small primary producers. What competition? Corporate communism propaganda at its best! George III ( and Ned Kelly) is alive and well ...
Rob Moore
19/02/2015 12:40:47 PM

It looks a sound basis to start the process to me. My concern is that - nobody has done a stitch of work yet on how #rec 2 can be done. I spoke to Phillip Glide (no2 @ DA out of 4000 of them)- the other night for over an hour and he confirmed that whatever happens will require legislation through the 2 houses. So amazingly - the work starts today -if Joyce authorises it! It doesn't get a mention in the layout BUT - Newcorp must not get taxpayers co-contribution as that will compromise its integrity. That taxpayer money stays for AQIS,insp/grading,AHA,biosecurity respons
The Serf
19/02/2015 12:57:49 PM

This is just a con trick "angry"; I have seen the 14 page document and the budget its a money grab of $4 million from the levy to keep the public servants in CCA and their new found friends living on our hard earned money into the future; the lowly levy payer is still the downtrodden serf that can only appoint a Delegate in the style of the Bolshevik Kremlin with no real democracy. What we need is a plebiscite to vote to vote down the Levy, its just a waste of money and it must go...
keith
20/02/2015 10:34:15 AM

i would like to know what the ABA members think of this marriage between ABA and CCA. As a former ABA member it goes against all the founding principles that they once had, I just wonder what Brad Bellinger and John Carter think of this treachery. There is no true democracy in this and they are using levy money to finance an very unpopular CCA, I think there is no support for this.
Archibald
20/02/2015 10:41:12 AM

Bull dust, grass fed levy payers will get their say when they are identified and in control of whether a levy is required, it's use and the quantum of the levy. Very disappointed with Miniseter Joyce and his Dept.
The Serf
20/02/2015 11:58:53 AM

everyone should be aware the document proposes that the Pasturefed Cattle Assurance System (PCAS) will become mandatory just like NLIS and LPA and will be enforced by CCA through the NVD system, and they intend to charge a fee which will also be mandatory!! It is projected in the Budget that in the first year the income to CCA from that mandatory income will be $400,000. The assumption is that when the 82,000 + enterprises become compulsory members of PCAS the revenue to CCA will be $3 -$4 million annually!!! control and greed is all this is - reject it!!

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