RED meat producers have made it abundantly clear they do not want anyone on the board of their big service provider on account of popularity.
That’s why the process surrounding the election of the nine board members on Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) is one of the most vigorous . . . and legendary.
Outgoing selection committee member, Central Queensland cattleman Ian McCamley said candidates who were finally put forward as possible directors were “tipped upside down and turned inside out.”
“Some of the questions thrown at them . . . I’ve never come across anything like it,” he said.
It’s the selection committee’s job to call for applications, interview, shortlist and report to members on the suitability of candidates.
This committee is made up of four producers, two representing grassfed beef, one grainfed and one sheep; two MLA directors and three representatives from producer peak councils.
It has, itself, been fine-tuned over the years to be more robust, including the addition two years ago of a second grassfed member and the removal of voting rights of the current directors. Their role now is as a conduit between selection debate and what is occurring on the board - that is, “we lack x,y,z skills or we need more input from this area.”
While selection committees are nothing new, red meat has earned a reputation for the enthusiasm and hardiness under which its process operates and the selection committee positions are today highly coveted.
“We almost need a selection committee for the selection committee,” Mr McCamley joked.
“But really, being on the committee is seen as a way to make a difference if you don’t want to, or don’t have the skills to, sit on the board.
“Our process prevents uninformed decisions at the annual general meeting.
“We’ll leave the populist vote, and the politics, to the peak councils and governments. We want our service provider on the R and D and marketing job.”
The Grains Research Development Corporation (GRDC) and Cotton Research Development Corporation (CRDC) both also have skills based boards, with independent selection panels.
No doubt achieving the right mix of board member skills and experience is a big step towards getting it right in terms of how levy money is spent because MLA’s return on investment (ROI) is at the higher end of the agriculture service provider spectrum.
ROI at MLA is calculated by estimating benefits, with further analysis using an industry economic model.
It was most recently done for all of MLA investments from 2010-11 to 2014-15 by independent consultants.
That impact assessment concluded MLA’s $997 million expenditure on R&D and marketing programs in that time frame provided current and future industry returns of $6.170 million.
This equates to a benefit cost ratio of 6.2:1, or $6.20 return for every dollar invested.
By comparison, Australian Wool Innovation was $2.90; GRDC $6 and cotton $8.29.
Fairfax Media’s research indicates very few producers are aware of those figures.
Mr McCamley believes that is due to producers not realising they are entitled to play a role in how their levy is spent, or a genuine feeling they can’t effect any change, and the age-old farmer reputation for apathy.
“MLA do a fair job of letting producers know what is going on but we all get in our own little world and miss a fair bit of this kind of stuff,” he said.