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The MLA Structure

Three articles, found in the rural media in mid-March, caught ABA’s attention.   “Cattle Council seeks to get a portion of the $5 beef levy”;  and Mal Peters, ex President of NSW Farmers Federation,  thinks “we urgently need changes to be made to MLA”and the AFI (Aust. Farm Institute) tells us that the farming lobby groups no longer represent the majority of the rural industries and therefore fail to raise the necessary funds to function effectively.

  1. Re:  Cattle Council seeking a portion of the $5 levy.
  • Consider these facts TicTacs readers:  CCA say that they have 15,000 members, and that that constitutes 50% of all beef producers in the country.
  • But ABA then considers the MLA’s figures where they talk about having 48,000 members, yet we know that numerous producers have not signed up for MLA membership.
  • Plus, prior to the PIC (Property identification Code) records being ruined by the NLIS program – in which properties/farms in the same shire could work under the one PIC and all records of individual holdings was lost-  there were 92000 PICs in NSW alone!! Joined with the enormous number of PICs that used to be registered in every state, how many producers are there?
  • Add this question – how many of those members the state farming organisations are genuinely cattle people, or do their figures include vegetable, wool, llama, etc  producers?
  • When talking about their current finances and income, Cattle Council talks about their ‘indirect access to the $5 levy’.   By this, they are alluding to the extra income they need to function their office, so they do extra consultancy work, mostly for MLA.  (Note this: they have to do work for MLA to get a piece of the grassfed cattle levy that MLA was handed directly, and CCA was been by-passed on!!).
  • However, CCA staff then talks about being overworked and not being able to achieve what producers require from them, or represent the industry properly, because they are so busy with their consultancy work.   One can only wonder what ‘slips through the cracks’ in the grassfed industry whilst CCA are busy consulting for MLA.
  • The wrap-up is:  Cattle council would like a slice of MLA’s marketing dollar, and they hope the Government will legislate for them to receive this money without then ever changing the existing ‘OLD BOYS CLUB’!!
  • This was plainly obviously during the ‘restructuring of CCA’ where CCA, controlled by the SFOs,  ignored everything that they were advised producers’ wanted, and merely kept their old structure and added two more seats for ‘independents’.

One of the biggest and most important roles for CCA is to oversee MLA’s programs and R&D,  to make sure that producers get a good return on their enormous investment of over $50million a year.  Could it be possible that they are so compromised by their reliance on their consultancy income from MLA to actually be able to keep them under control?
That’s because the income they currently receive out of the grassfed $5 levy is too low to function with!
The fact is:  MLA have acknowledged that under the Deed of Agreement they are required to consult with CCA…… but the amazing thing is that they are under no obligation to follow through on CCA’s suggestions on management.  MLA has figured this out, and consequently they have kept the upper hand.
Producers need to understand that CCA just wants a re-financing package, leaving MLA in control over grassfed cattle producers’ money and delivering very little in research/results/profits/security/protection for their biggest funder,  grassfed cattle producer.

  1.  Mal Peters says the current Senate enquiry must bring about change.
  • Peters says cattle producers can no longer afford to pay levies to an  organisation like MLA that has delivered such disastrous results for levy payers.
  • Lack of performance is bad enough, but the fact that MLA has no accountability back to the members who pay a compulsory levy, is illegal and does not fit into the constitutional rules concerning paying enforced levies.
  • As ex-president of the New South Wales Farmers Federation, Mr Peters says how he watched  CCA perform and was not impressed; and that he was always concerned that MLA had ‘captured’ CCA’s board members. That CCA never criticised MLA’s performance, and never pushed them to lift their game.
  • Peters says the reality is that the majority of farmers who pay the levy are not actually members of CCA, and that the CCA’s hybrid model of their restructured organisation will not cut the mustard.

ABA, who has said these exact things for years, agrees.  The self-restructured Cattle Council of Australia is merely a ‘rebadging and refinancing package’, which is still under that control of the same old folks –  the broke and ineffective SFO’s (most of whom do not pay their membership to CCA); and the MLA.  Mr Peters, once a part of this structure, has admitted now that it is not working.  Producers have been saying it for years.
The other Peak Councils on the Board of MLA (and the Red Meat Advisory Council), some of whom pay very little in levies and yet get so much advantage out of the grassfed producer levies,  must be laughing all the way to the bank and back.
Classic example is: MLA spends $80million+ on marketing.  Processors pay a very small amount toward domestic marketing, while refusing outright to contribute towards the enormous overseas marketing budget, because they know it is ineffective in selling meat.
This year, whilst AMPC are selling record volumes and receiving record prices in overseas beef markets, MLA are very quick to take credit for this. However, Australia’s droughted  producers, receiving lower than the usual price they have received for over 20 years, have paid handsomely for processors’ and retailer’s profits.  That $80m+ of marketing has returned nothing to producers.

  1. Rural Lobby groups fail to represent the majority of the rural industries.

Enough said….it’s been said over and over.
So, we know the problems.  What are the answers or the solutions?
ABA, numerous other groups and individuals, all agree that the grassfed cattle industry, which is querying it’s representation, should be able to expect to have their levies be handed to a body or organisation whose sole focus is the effective management of the grass fed cattle industry and levy money.   Just like the live exporters and the processors do.
If they can do it, why can’t we.  Please do not tell us we are not capable of doing it!
First step to achieve this, we need to identify all grassfed cattle producers.  How many are there?
Don’t ask MLA – even with a $180m annual budget, they could not trace every cattle producer in the country.  Too hard a job?  Didn’t want to, in case it made them accountable? Couldn’t work out how to do it?  Hid behind the “Privacy Law’ idea….so that they did not have to.  Couldn’t work out that all sellers have to use a NVD with a PIC, and so every sold beast is traceable through paper….therefore every seller is traceable.
Whether it is the 30,000 that the ineffective CCA claims; or the 48,000 who have registered with the lazy MLA (it isn’t); or more than 100,000 above that, it should no longer be left to ‘suggestion’.
The grassfed cattle industry is a multi-million dollar business for Australia, and needs to have managed accordingly.
We grassfed producers need to demand better than what CCA and MLA offers, and more and more persons who once supported the ‘old guard’ are admitting to the same line of thinking.

Linda Hewitt

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