Recommendation 1. This has four points which the ABA would like to comment on individually.
Point 1. – The Senate committee recommends that a producer owned body be established by legislation.
- ABA feels that a producer owned body should indeed be established by legislation. That body should only be elected after all grass-fed levy cattle producers have been identified and given an automatic membership for that financial year, and be given a democratic vote.
Point 2. – The Senate committee recommends that the body should have the authority to receive and disperse research and development as well as the marketing component of the transaction levy funds.
- ABA policy is very clear and we would like to see all grass-fed cattle levies going into a body that has been set up to look after grass-fed levy payers. This body could collect all transaction levies from grass-fed producers, some $54 million. At present MLA collects $104 million in levies of which cattle producers pay the lion share and have the least say.
Point 3. – The Senate committee recommends that the producer owned body should be authorised to receive matching government and development funds.
- ABA recognises the fact that AMPC and Live Exporters have control of their own funds and use MLA as a service provider. Grass-fed producers have no such luxury and the so called peak councils for producers (CCA) is still holding joint forums with MLA and still receiving funding from MLA. Some people may believe that this is a complete conflict of interest.
Point 4. – The Senate committee recommends the reforming of the present CCA to achieve these outcomes should be examined as part of this process.
- ABA has had discussions with CCA on many occasions and found that CCA has no agenda for change other than trying to get part of the $5.00 levy, and while they remain a sub- committee of SFO’s (state farming organisations) the alternative may be to create a producer organisation that all producers could have a vote on people going on to this new board. This board could collect all $54 million collected from grass-fed producers and dispense funding to an organisation like MLA a replica of AMPC and ALEC.
The Senate committee recommends the establishment of a cost effective automated cattle transaction levy system.
- ABA has long pushed for an automated transaction levy system. AWI has done this very successfully for many years and has resulted in wool producers getting a full and democratic vote. The present voting system for grass fed cattle producers is voluntary and over the years it has been abused by ruthless individuals and companies.
The Senate committee recommends that the primary industry excise levy act of 1999 to be amended to ensure that levies paid by processors are recognised as processor (or slaughter) levies and not as producer or cattle transaction levies.
- ABA strongly support these recommendations as it is a very grey area and as previously stated that there has been much evidence over the years that the present system has been abused.
The Senate committee recommends that the Australian National Audit office conduct an audit of the cattle transaction levy system, tracing levy from the inception and focusing on the revenue and expenditure of the respective components of the levy.
- ABA believes that an audit of the whole levy system is long overdue.
The Senate committee recommends that the Minister of Agriculture dissolve the red meat advisory council. The committee further recommends that the Minister for Agriculture establish a new system to manage and disperse earnings from the red meat industry reserve fund in consultation with the industry.
- ABA points to the fact that when we had a major problem with live shipping RMAC could not make any helpful recommendations as processors were opposed to live shipping. It should be remembered that processors have two seats on RMAC board as against other peak councils who have one seat each.
The Senate committee recommends that the Minister for Agriculture revoke the status of the MLA donor company as an approved donor under the meat and livestock industry act of 1997.
- ABA has no objection to the MLA working as a service organisation for the red meat industry but what ABA does object to is MLA using grass-fed levy funds for marketing and R & D for the benefit of others e.g. supermarket duopoly and overseas processors.
The Senate committee recommends that the department of agriculture in consultation with the cattle industry conduct analysis of the benefits, costs and consequences of introducing legislation akin to the Packers and Stockyard act of 1921 and Livestock Mandatory Pricing Reporting of 1999.
- ABA fully supports this recommendation and it should be noted MLA do a lot of marketing reporting and most of their reporting comes from saleyards which are becoming less important as a guide as processors and supermarkets buy more and more stock through private treaty. This comes at a great cost to producers and is very unreliable and a new system may prove to be not only more efficient but more effective.