MLA’s conference held this year in Albury on 14 November 2013.
The attendance of about 100 people was interesting seeing most people in attendance were from peak councils or MLA staff. Numbers of levy payers without any affiliation were very thin.
As usual we had all peak councils tell the audience what a great job they were doing for the levy paying producers out there. Some of the most notable achievements were from CCA.
They had taken DAFF staff around the country looking at cattle stations and making sure they knew how the cattle industry actually works.
Then we have the rising champion’s initiative. To me they missed the point that the industry must get better returns for producers. Put simply no producers no industry. Then to cap it all off we were told about grass fed assurance program whereas producers actually sign up for a program that guarantees a great outcome for processors and assures producers take all costs whilst processors as usual collect the benefits.
The killer punch came when we were told about how many people CCA had consulted around the country, 2500 people. Firstly I got the impression that this was the number of people that attended their forums throughout the country, though it was pointed out that they had some other interaction through other avenues. Though saying that the six forums around the country would have been lucky to attracted less than 400 actual levy payers at a cost of? Making each producer attending worth about $4000 per person which I’m sure most agree would be great value.
David Larkin representing the processing sector was one of the most interesting speakers of the day.
He went to great lengths to talk about how well our export markets were travelling and how Australia was getting a premium for a high-class product.
One stakeholder made the comment that we are not seeing the results at farm gate as prices are poor. Another stakeholder suggested that processors were pushing the price down further than they need to, due to drought supply and lack of pressure. Mr Larkin rejected any notion of processors were profit-taking in about that year at the expense of cattlemen. He went on to point out that processors have had a very profitable year. What he failed to say that this had come at producers expense through disastrous cattle prices. However, what he did say that he thought the price of cattle would go through the roof in the near future as supply dried up and he felt that the massive price swings in cattle was no good to anybody?
Sitting back watching, everybody talked about what a great product Australian producers produce and we get the worst cattle prices of any developed country in the world. Some of these countries have had problems with BSE and ongoing problems with FMD.
I couldn’t help wonder if some of Australia’s beef industry leaders suffer from Foot in mouth disease. Highlight CCA chair Ogilvie rejected the statement that processors were dragging cattle prices down, no rain no water. And some processors didn’t have the capacity to handle any more cattle which makes me wonder who CCA works for.
MSA copped a work out as you would expect and we were told what a great job MSA had done for the local consumer.
It was interesting prior to the AGM that ABA had made a request that we have a barbecue with the MLA board. Whereas we would take seven packages of porterhouse MSA purchased from a large supermarket chain and one unmarked piece of steak that would not be MSA. All steaks would be cooked and the same temperature by the same chef and diced into cubes so all eight pieces of steak could be then taste tested and marked 1 to 10 for eating quality by the MLA board. This never eventuated.
MD of MLA Scott Hansen gave a great talk of the difficulties facing producers and he pointed towards the fact that some customers will not buy meat off heifers and this was a problem for the beef industry. He was then asked about how much box meat he had actually seen heifer marked on it. Apparently he was confused with live shipments of sheep going to the Middle East.
To me everybody was well fed and drinks were freely available and it was a very profitable window dressing session had by all. However beyond the window dressing and drinking I can’t see any achievements for the average producer.