The red meat industry structure is very complicated and not very efficient. In fact some believe with a structure with 6 masters with competing interests is unworkable.

The structure consists of six peak councils who then put varying amounts into the MLA and have varying influence over the MLA.

Live export Council contribute 2.2 million

Australian Lot feeders contribute $8.5 million. L

Lamb, goat and mutton contribute $31 million

Processors through AMPC contribute $9 million

Cattle producers throw in $56.2 million

This clearly shows that cattle producers are paying more into MLA coffers than all the other peak councils put together. The most concerning thing is the way the structure has evolved whereas live exporters and processors can control what levies that they contribute and make sure it is spent how they decide. One prime example is MLA has spent in excess of half 1 billion dollars on export markets over the last ten years, whilst processors say this is a complete waste of money and refuse to contribute any of their levies to overseas marketing. It should be remembered that processors have enormous influence due to their feed-lot levies which gives them a huge voting block. This is in direct contrast to cattle producers who have no say on how and where their levies will be spent. It also should be noted that 40,000 grass-fed producers have registered for MLA votes, whilst there are 5,000 people registered for grain-fed cattle. According to ABARE the price and tonnage of Australian beef sold on export markets has hardly altered over the last 10 years. According to MLA last financial figures beef export values have increased to $4.5 billion from 2009-10. When one studies the same chart 2008-2009 beef export values were very close to $5 million. MLA are very good at using very selective data. Domestic beef prices have gone up by 60% over the last 10 years, whilst producer prices have flat lined over the same period. MLA judges their success on the price of retail meat. Producers should be entitled to ask how the retail price of beef helps the producer. The answer would be that the higher the price of retail meat will spill-over into livestock prices.

What’s the answer?

Producers could form a revamped Cattle Council that took over the collection of the cattle grass fed levies of $56 million that at present goes into MLA coffers. This body could copy how the processors operate and give money to a service organisation like MLA or they could follow other models which appear to be very successful. Other agri-organisations have systems whereas every transaction is recorded and voting rights are given accordingly, not like the MLA model whereas producers have to register to vote and so doing so agree to be members of the MLA.

Other agri-political organisations are designed by producers for the benefit of producers.

A new structure would be designed to give levy payers more ownership and more influence over the use of their levies to ensure its accountability.

Other people would like to see no reserve positions for state farming organisations. Direct elections merge advocacy, representation, policy and service delivery in one organisation. A one stop shop that looks after all grass-fed producers needs. As stated earlier this is not unique to the red meat industry and it appears to be working successfully for other organisations

A distinctive feature of the APL Pork corporation, is its ability to use its marketing levy funds for the delivery of strategic policy development services and advocacy on behalf of pork producers. There is no separate representative body.

When one considers how much the pork people have to spend on marketing and compared to the MLAs hundreds of million dollars. Whilst beef consumption has dropped pork is on a steep upward curve. Porks total income is $15.8 million, compare this with MLAs $170 million.

Whenever people talk of a statutory levy this inevitably leads to the comment the government will not accept statutory levies being used for agri-political use. The APL would appear to put this argument to rest, providing the Agri-political body doesn’t try to influence one party over another or actively take part in pushing a political party.

By all accounts we could have an independent elected Cattle Council and overseas marketing R & D

and policy development then this could be a well resourced body that does not rely on state farming organisations to keep it afloat and members of the board could be elected by using a similar voting system that the AWI has used so successfully are so many years. Who knows all levy payers may be given their voting rights through the post just like AWI then we will know how many levy payers that pay the compulsory beef levy. Perhaps the time has come for people involved in Agri-politics to forget self-interest and egos. If this happened and everybody worked together we may see the results of a workable system that looked after producers interests.

from David Byard Australian Beef Association