On ABC radio recently, Cattle Council President Andrew Ogilvy made some surprising statements about the Senate report on the management of the grass fed cattle levy.
Ogilvy said “The one thing we strongly oppose is our representative group, CCA, being established by legislation”.
It continues to surprise the ABA that such statements are made, when the reality is that CCA was established as the grass cattle Peak Council by John Anderson, and their role as a Peak Council is actually enshrined in legislation!! Do CCA themselves not know this?
We do know that in the past, when complaining about how they are not able to control MLA’s spending of the producer’s dollar, the CCA did not understand that there was an MoU (a Memorandum of Understanding), also put in place by Anderson, that reduced their power and ruled how they had to interact with MLA – rules that gave them no power at all.
And thanks to those rules of the MoU, CCA had been reduced to a powerless, underfunded, inadequate advocate for the cattle producer. At the same time the producers has seen millions of their dollars flow into MLA without any accountability of whose money it was, or how it should be managed.
Under the current arrangement an independent producer has NO chance of getting onto the CCA board and making changes, because he has to be a member of an SFO (Agforce or NSWFF or SAFF etc) to have any realistic chance of joining the board of CCA. The failures of the State Farm Organisations are highlighted in the dramatically reduction of members, plus their slavish behaviour to green groups, green policy, sustainability programs etc.
The Senate Inquiry talked to people throughout the industry. The Senate soon caught on to what was actually going on. They then suggested that a new cattle producer body should be established, with automatic producer voting rights, and with the Board managed by its own industry.
This is the Senate, after listening to all the facts, proposing the establishment of a Peak Council, elected by producers for the benefit of producers. However, as the new Board is to have control of its own levies, a form of government tax, then this must all happen under legislation, and must be voted on by government as tabled by Minister Barnaby Joyce. What is Mr Ogilvy talking about?
Ogilvy complains about Cattle Council being representative of an $8 billion industry sector, but with an office operating on a budget of only $1.39m, and only five staff.
Even ABA concedes that this is a ridiculous situation, but who has let this go on for 17 years in this manner?
Who has allowed the cattle producers and their money to so used by the MLA and other Peak Councils? Who has criticised and clammed up against the producers who were demanding change and a better deal for their industry? (And a better deal for their industry reps?)
So when did the CCA finally concede defeat? Only when they were constantly operating in the red, constantly losing face on the management of the industry, and constantly being harangued by the producers to change.
Mr Ogilvy doesn’t admit that CCA has relied on MLA giving them funds (MLA giving our money condescendingly to our Peak Council) to operate and stay afloat. Even worse, the SFO’s that pay memberships to fund CCA are bleeding members, so they are increasingly reluctant (or unable) to pay to be members of CCA. CCA’s design is so flawed it will never be able to save itself.
Now CCA is suggesting that instead of setting up a new independent producer Board that manages ALL its own levies, the Cattle Council should just continue to get a small share of the $5 levy, so they can continue their role!! They maintain this will allow them to effectively represent the grass fed producer!!
ABA is horrified!! With this suggestion comes the overlooked fact that CCA will be in no better a position than they are now. They will still have to be subservient to MLA, with no control over the producers’ dollar. They are maintaining they will still represent the producer, but they will still have no say over policy making. They have made no suggestion that they will seek to change any of those problems, but will continue to go with the flow!!!
Also, to increase revenue, Cattle Council have suggested that producers should join CCA, bypassing the SFOs and paying $100/ membership. They anticipated that many would go with this idea, but the success of this idea has been minimal. 150 people have joined up bringing in $15,000, while their office account for last year was overdrawn by more than $300,000.
Putting it into context – MLA have been handing over approx. $25,000 per week to CCA to carry out ‘service work’ for MLA…….when, in fact, MLA is meant to be the service provider to the red meat industry Peak Councils!!
This situation is completely ridiculous. The producers’ Peak Council is being paid by the very people that they should be overseeing!!
Ogilvy was at pains to point out that low prices for producers are not just the fault of meat processors, and that they do employ 150,000 people. He goes on to say that meat processors are such a strong voice and this reflects on the position they hold in industry. But he omits to say that Processors pay only $18m in levies, and receive it all back to their Peak Council, who then gives MLA about $9m to carry out service work. Remember, we producers pay $54m to MLA and already about $20m has been removed first, to pay Animal Health Aust and for the Nat. Residue Service.
Producers know that the research into better meat, advertising to sell meat, and meat sciences carried out are all for the benefit of the processors, and not for the producers.
In fact, it is the producers who insure that all this ‘science’ is carried out on their farms, and delivered by their operations, but there is no extra on the price received for their cattle. Processors don’t pay anything towards marketing (they refuse to) and producers have no choice – MLA pays it for them without consultation!!
Processors have been huge beneficiaries of producer levies spent on marketing, which according to MLA, has seen the price and the volume of beef go to heights that the industry has never seen before. While producers acknowledge this is great for the beef industry, it is not so for the cattle industry!!
While processors make enormous profits selling beef, producers have seen some of the lowest cattle prices – and when one takes the cost of production into consideration they would be the worst prices ever.
Thank goodness the Senators have mooted the much needed changes to our structure that producers’ want. We just have to ensure that those who have been living off our levies do not try to block the proposed new producers’ Board, as their gravy train is taken away from them
The present system does not work. Let’s make a real effort to establish and new and representational Board, to support the Minister of Agriculture to legislate the changes needed, and to unite in one common ‘cattle producer’ goal – effective self-management.