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Fair Suck of the Sausage!

Beef producers Australia wide are familiar with parasites that can affect their income.

What most producers don’t realise is that the effects of bodies that make decisions over the industry can be equally, if not more, devastating than a disease or parasite.

I’m sure most people are aware that they pay a five dollar levy every time they sell a beast and the majority of that money goes into the MLA. The problem starts when you consider the amount of influence that producers have over the MLA.

MLA tells that their purpose is to foster long-term prosperity for the Australian and red meat livestock industry. The problem continues when you realise that the prosperity of the producers relies on getting a fair price for their product, whilst at the same time the processors prosperity may rely on getting stock as cheaply as possible. The point being that one cannot serve two masters let alone multiple, at some point there must be a conflict of interest.

Producers’ industry peak Council is CCA and is run largely by volunteers and is poorly resourced whilst the peak councils for processors is awash with money and resources. A great example; 2 policy officers, one SFO has 15. Added to the fact is that multinational processors have their own spin departments and also are well resourced and have enormous political influence.

Another great example is the Language the Standards Committee which is completely dominated by processors who have all resources to actually make sure any decisions are made in their favour. All this while we have a producer representative who gives his time on a voluntary basis; this contrasts sharply with processors’ representatives along with people like the supermarkets’ representatives.

This committee of AusMeat makes the decisions on who gets paid for what and how much trim can be removed prior to the scales along with many other things that affect producers’ incomes.

One voluntary representative made the point that they arrive in a taxi whilst the processor representatives travel first class and arrive in limousines, whilst receiving a large wage package whilst representing their employees’ interests at meetings.

The simple fact is processors, retailers and supermarkets employ well-paid highly trained professional lobbyists to do their work on committees while producers have well-meaning volunteer and amateur people representing them. This is not a slight on producer representatives; they do the best that they possibly can. To my way of thinking it is like putting an amateur boxer in the ring against a number of true professionals and expecting that amateur not to get beaten up.

From the MLA point of view; it is funded by levy payers and if the majority of the largest voting block is processors then MLA would be very foolish not to take notice of the processors.

MLA tells us that their vision is to deliver value to levy payers in all we do to improve producer profitability and sustainability and global competitiveness. With a strategic plan we will achieve this through relentless commercial focus on delivering real outcomes.

I love these motherhood statements. However, I cannot help wonder how producers can be possibly looked after in the present system that we have, which ensures that processors do little of the paying and much of the saying.

Upon writing this column I keep wondering how much better off producers are than they were 20 years ago and how much the statutory levy they had been forced to pay has actually been to producers’ benefit. When one considers the prices that producers received 20 years ago and what they receive now and the costs they incur to raise a beast, I have no doubt that the present system is NOT to producers’ benefit.

As a young fellow I was told that if it wasn’t broken, don’t try and fix it. In my book of rules the structure we have now is broken beyond repair and needs urgent attention.

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