THE call has gone out for grassfed cattle producers to put their money where their mouth is and get behind the advocacy they say they want.
With the wheels finally starting to turn on the long-awaited representative body restructure courtesy of $500,000 in federal government funds, the key to its success will be membership and participation, says Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) president Howard Smith.
This week’s announcement that CCA will be one of 27 industry bodies to receive funding from the Leadership in Agricultural Industries Fund means the restructure may finally become a reality.
Since a senate committee recommended, more than two years ago, a new body with directly elected board members was needed, an implementation committee with widespread industry sector membership has been on the job.
The new model has been in place for some time. It’s based around a direct-elect structure drawing elected representatives from 15 regions, facilitating consultation directly from industry and maintaining oversight of levy expenditure by the likes of Meat and Livestock Australia and Animal Health Australia.
The sticking point has been a lack of funding.
Mr Smith says the industry is now equipped with the resources to take the next big step.
He expects elections might be held around this time next year.
“This will be a start, it will get the ball rolling and we are hopeful as we proceed we can come up with more ways of sourcing funds,” he said.
There is little doubt membership will play a key part of any funding solution.
“Producers have to get behind the organisation,” Mr Smith said.
“It will only be as good as the people in it. If producers want ownership, they need to participate.
“When it comes around to representation for the 15 regions, put your hand up and get elected.”
That sentiment was supported by chair of the implementation committee Troy Setter.
“We now have an opportunity to move towards the direct elected cattle producer representative organisation that industry wants,” he said.
“The concept and the structure has been in development for several years and we now have the required funding to move to that.”
The new body would still be a peak council organisation, still a member of the Red Meat Advisory Council and still perform the functions that CCA currently does, he said.
“With that comes some funding sources but direct membership will be a big part,” Mr Setter said.
“It is really important we have one united organisation that all producers are members of and support and it is resourced with the best possible people.”
Asked if this development was likely to put to rest agitations from rival representative groups with plans to ‘go around’ CCA and form a new peak producer organisation, Mr Smith said there were people who would never be satisfied but they were the extreme.
Everyone else in the industry “would not let this process be derailed by people with an agenda,” he said.
However, he was also adamant the ball is in the producer’s court now.
“We will build this vehicle and the keys will be handed to the new Cattle Australia and it will be up to them how they modify it from there,” he said.
Mr Joyce’s fund offered $5 million in grants to representative bodies to support initiatives to develop leadership capacity and capability within agricultural industries, as well as increase communication with farmers on questions regarding government policies, agricultural research, and development levies.