After months of gathering data and taking evidence from interested parties, in early September of last year, the Senate committee finally bought its’ findings on the grassfed beef industry structures. The current structure which sees producers doing most of the paying and processors and other self-interested groups doing most of the saying definitely needed to change and the Senate committee recognised this.
The committee recommended that a producer owned body be established by legislation. The body should have the authority to receive and disburse research and development as well as the marketing component of the cattle levy transaction funds. Another recommendation was the establishment of a cost-effective, automated cattle transaction levy system. The system should, and must, be able to identify all producers against levies paid.
The whole seven recommendations were well weighted and, if adopted, would ensure that producers, who are paying to what amounts to a government tax, would have some sort of authority over how and where their money is spent. If these recommendations were adopted it would make sure that producers may get a fair deal out of the contributions that currently seem to fund programmes that favour processors and retailers.
Since then it has become obvious that the well-organised and well-resourced organisations like the multinational processors and the supermarket duopoly have thrown their weight into making sure that the Senate recommendations are not acted upon by the Minister.
No doubt, the Minister is trying to walk the tightrope between what many think should happen and the well-resourced bodies, who have so much to say and pay so little towards the upkeep of the present structure. As well as minimise the required legislative change and the fallout to smaller groups within the MLA sphere. Should grassfed producers have standalone representation? Yes, the independent jury, being the Senate, has made this decision.
After months of consideration it would appear that the Minister’s decision is imminent. On behalf of our members we would respectfully implore that he implement all seven recommendations of the Senate committee. After all, these recommendations came after extensive opportunities for input from the industry and careful consideration of that input by the Senators. Given that such input came from various individuals, corporates and industry bodies across the grassfed beef spectrum as well as other parties with an interest in the outcome of the inquiry it would be true to say they heard a wide variety of opinion -conforming and conflicting with the general consensus. They obviously determined that these recommendations were the correct response to the length and breadth of written and anecdotal evidence provided to them.
The Minister should therefore feel secure in his decision to implement all seven recommendations as obviously their germination and birth came from the industry itself.
The Australian Beef Association looks forward to supporting the Minister in the physical implementation of these recommendations following on from his decision and the associated required legislative changes.