New grass-fed cattle peak body in the wind

New grass-fed cattle peak body in the wind

Beef
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Beef Industry Australia is the 'working title' of a new cattle advocacy body in the making

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A NEW grass-fed cattle producer representative organisation is in the making, with directly-elected board members the key feature.

A steering group has been quietly meeting for much of the year to nut out the formation of the organisation, which has been given a working title of Beef Industry Australia.

The peak body currently representing grass-fed producers, Cattle Council of Australia, and the key group that has long been fighting for representative reform, Cattle Producers Australia, are involved.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud confirmed the steering committee had been formed to 'secure majority support' for a national representative body for grass-fed cattle producer representation.

He said he had been working closely with CCA and CPA on the issue.

While the steering group agreed not to speak publicly about what was happening until the announcement of a new body was made, one participant broke ranks this week due to a concern the process may be in jeopardy.

Queensland pastoralist Jock Douglas, who has been involved with CPA, said adequate resourcing of a reformed cattle producer peak body would be dependent on that body being elected by, and transparently answerable to, grass-fed levy payers.

He felt there was some baulking at that reform position among the steering group now.

No easy solution

Restructure of CCA has been discussed for more than a decade.

The argument is the sheer scale of Australia's grass-fed cattle industry, and the fact these producers contribute the lion's share of industry levies, means its peak council should be one of the most powerful in the business.

Two senate inquiries, one in 2014 into grass-fed levies and another soon after into consolidation in the red meat processing sector, identified shortcomings with representation of the grass-fed sector and recommended fundamental changes.

The first advocated a producer-owned body be established via legislation and suggested reforming CCA could be one way to that.

CCA has made some steps towards change since. It very quickly opened its doors to producers who were not financial members of state farming organisations via a direct membership option and introduced two directly-elected positions to its board, one northern and one southern.

Agitation for far more substantial change continued and various politicians, continually approached by producers, have over the years expressed frustration at the inability or unwillingness of the industry to come up with a single, powerful body.

By 2017, a Cattle Australia Implementation Committee was working to take the direct-elected model for advocacy forward in line with recommendations from the senate inquiries. However, CCA pulled out of that process, citing a lack of appetite from the Federal Government to support the long-term, sustainable funding of the new structure.

In the face of no realistic funding options, CCA said it would 'enhance what currently exists' and soon after announced it would restructure to have up to seven direct-elected state and territory directors on the board and at least two skills-based appointments.

That didn't progress, however, with CCA saying in 2019 it would wait for the results of the wider industry structure memorandum of understanding review that was taking place at the time. Last year, it pointed to COVID upheaval as the hold-up.

ALSO SEE: Do beef senate inquiries amount to anything?

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