Producers are told that we are on the cusp of revitalising the grass-fed cattle producers' peak body.
According to Minister Littleproud, Cattle Australia will be a peak council under the Red Meat Memorandum of Understanding that will represent grass-fed cattle producers. This will be an opportunity for grass-fed producers to vote on something we have waited for 40 years.
To me, actions speak louder than words. A functional peak council is an asset - a dysfunctional peak council is a liability.
It seems Cattle Council of Australia has failed in this role for the past 20 years. Now we see CCA dominating the committee trying to bring about change. Are they simply changing the deck chairs to ensure they keep their roles?
We have seen four webinars carefully managed where questions were many and answers few. At a pinch, ten independent grass-fed cattle producers attended each webinar. So, 40 people attended out of 100,000 grass-fed cattle producers paying the compulsory $5 per head transaction levy. I believe we can call this a failure.
Call it what you like, however, changing the name without the funding and the ability to advocate on producers' behalf, the whole thing is doomed before it starts.
Perhaps, Minister Littleproud might like to explain whether he will make sure funding is available and that grass-fed cattle producers will have oversight of their so-called service organisation Meat Livestock Australia.
It should be remembered in 2018 CCA pulled the plug on the restructure implementation committee formed by Minister Joyce three years earlier because there was no funding source available (public statements by CCA to that effect).
I can't see CA being more functional than the present CCA.
The point being, CCA has failed. The reason for failure is not the people on the board or the staff - the problem is the foundations of CCA.
Surely the foundations are the key and unless we can develop foundations that will be able to stand the rigours of a functional and workable peak council - everybody is wasting their time.
The name of a new peak council is of little importance.
However, what is essential is that a new peak council has control over producers' money flowing from the compulsory levy.
In fact, this was the first of the seven recommendations in the 2014 Senate Report on Restructure - a producer organisation must have control of the levies.
This senate report came to us after their committee travelled the length and breadth of Australia to listen to all grass-fed cattle producers.
They received over 400 submissions. It was therefore so disappointing for those of us involved to watch Littleproud's National Party throw out all seven recommendations.
It appears the current CA Restructure Steering Committee is looking at getting funding from producers through membership. In the past CCA tried and failed to attract members with this approach.
Then the next big thing is to get sponsorship. In the last few years CCA has relied heavily on service work for MLA to fund their wages.
This can have huge problems. As it stands now, producers have little or no say over MLA and this of course is exacerbated by CCA's conflict of interest with their reliance on MLA funding.
The simple fact is with sponsorship, whether it be supermarkets, pastoral houses or whoever, the one thing sponsors have in common is that all want a return on any sponsorship dollars.
We still wait to hear how CA will address funding and control over the grass-fed cattle producer levies.
- David Byard is the executive officer of the Australian Beef Association, a national producer representative group.
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