Producers' voice a non-negotiable in red meat industry reform

Producers' voice a non-negotiable in red meat industry reform

Beef
Cattle Council president Tony Hegarty says there is scope for better governance and accountability of red meat industry service providers.

Cattle Council president Tony Hegarty says there is scope for better governance and accountability of red meat industry service providers.

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Concerns held over restructure proposal.

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The Cattle Council of Australia has commended the work of all red meat industry stakeholders in developing A Better Red Meat Future: A White Paper for the Red Meat Advisory Council.

The Red Met Advisory Council has been overseeing a review of the Red Meat Industry Memorandum of Understanding since September last year, 20 years after the existing MoU was written.

This valuable document will help guide further discussion to deliver a better red meat industry structure for the future.

Cattle Council acknowledges it has been a lengthy and complex process to create this document and thanks the Red Meat MOU Review Taskforce for its efforts.

While appreciating the difficulty of undertaking a review of the MOU given the inherent complexity of the livestock and red meat supply chain and its many stakeholders, this acknowledgement should not be considered an endorsement of all recommendations made in the White Paper on the future structure of the industry.

As Cattle Council's response to the Green paper stated, the MOU was never intended to define what the industry should look like. Structural and representative change should be driven by mutual consensus and evolution.

As such, Cattle Council has grave concerns regarding some proposed restructures as outlined in the Red Meat MOU Review White Paper.

The key consideration for Cattle Council, its founding State Farming Organisation members (including NSW Farmers) and direct producer members, is achieving the most effective representation for producers while realising the best possible research, development and marketing outcomes through robust oversight of levies spent on their behalf.

Consequently, Cattle Council does not agree with the potential structure of 'NewCo1' in its current form, the proposed Red Meat Australia entity which would be the single advocacy voice for the red meat and livestock industry.

The grass-fed beef sector contributes the greatest share of industry levies, and no indication is given that the proposed structure of Red Meat Australia would provide any mechanism for greater effective producer oversight through their representative organisations, nor clarity on how these levies would be spent.

Producers are unwilling to cede any share of industry representation, nor any say in how industry levies are spent. With this in mind, there is simply no compelling evidence nor specific detail which outlines how the proposed Red Meat Australia would realise better outcomes for beef cattle producers.

As the prescribed Peak Industry Council, Cattle Council this year celebrated 40 years of cattle industry advocacy and leadership. Our direct and SFO-based members who volunteer their time and resources believe Cattle Council should continue to represent and advocate the priorities of cattle producers for the next 40 years.

Nonetheless, Cattle Council and its members recognise the need to achieve efficiencies by improving on current structures and we are open-minded regarding other reforms proposed in the White Paper.

While the scope for efficiencies which could be achieved under a single red meat research body is attractive, any such consolidation would need to embrace strong producer representation, accountable levy investment and have the ability to deliver on specific priorities.

There is scope for better governance and accountability of industry service providers like MLA, LiveCorp and AMPC, but the case is yet to be made in terms of how any restructures or mergers would achieve better outcomes for producers and other levy payers.

Cattle Council looks forward to working with other RMAC signatories to develop and refine the MOU so that it is acceptable to all levy payers, including cattle producers who represent the majority of levy payers in the industry.

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