Media Release: 31 October 2019
Dr Paul Wright, Chair of Cattle Producers Australia (CPA), rejects the claim in the 26 October 2019 edition of the FarmWeekly by United Beef Breeders WA President Kathy Lovelock that he does not understand the role and structure of Australia’s grass-fed cattle producer Peak industry Council, the Cattle Council of Australia (CCA).
Dr Wright said, “I was involved in Cattlemen’s Union initiatives to form Cattle Council of Australia back in 1979 and served as a board member of CCA for a period during the 1980s.
The role of our grass-fed cattle producer Peak Industry Council then and now, was and is, to provide representation to all cattle transaction levy payers nationally. This means that all cattle producers, including dairy farmers who also pay the $5 transaction levy, should have a say in how their levies are spent, and how policy is developed for their sector of the red meat industry. It is increasingly vital that cattle producers are able to respond to national and local issues and develop policy responses quickly,” he said.
The recent RMAC Red Meat MoU Review White Paper reflects an indisputable mood for reform of the current red meat industry organisational structure which was put into place more than 20 years ago. The issues and challenges that the red meat industry now faces are significantly different to the issues and challenges that the industry faced in the 1990s. The very structure of Australia’s red meat industry has changed as a consequence of globalisation, electronics, market and sector ownership consolidation and social licence and animal welfare issues.
State Farm Organisation (SFO) membership has also fallen significantly during the last 20 years with, by way of example, NSW Farmers membership numbers having declined from 25,000 in the mid-1990s to about 5,000 now. The impact of declining SFO membership on grass-fed cattle producer representation has been recognised by CCA and the 2012 Innovact Report attached to the 2014 CCA submission to the Senate Inquiry conceded that CCA was no longer truly representative of Australia’s grass-fed cattle producers because of falling membership and the convoluted SFO structure.
Consequently, numerous recent Senate Inquiries, ACCC and Productivity Commission findings, the recent RMAC Red Meat MoU Taskforce Review White Paper Report referred to above and CCA itself have concluded that grass-fed cattle producer Peak Industry Council needs to be reformed.
CCA have been actively attempting to reform itself as a body with a directly elected board since 2012 and CPA is the product of an Implementation Committee comprising representatives of CCA joined with the Australian Beef Association (ABA), Australian Meat Producers Group (AMPG), The Northern Pastoral Group (NPG) and Concerned Cattle Producers (CCP) at the behest of then Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce in early 2015 to establish CPA as a truly representative body to replace CCA as the Australian grass-fed cattle producer Peak industry Council
CCA resigned from the CPA Implementations Committee in January 2018 and since then CCA and the SFO’s have continued with attempts to reform itself into a more representative structure but unfortunately have not been able to reach an agreement between themselves on a model that would truly represent the majority of Australia’s grass-fed cattle transaction levy payers.
Recent studies by the Australian Farm Institute and Nuffield scholar Daniel Meade show that the most successful OECD agriculture advocacy bodies are those that have strong engagement levels and face to face contact with their constituents. Regional engagement that made it easy for constituents to approach their elected industry representative and local field officers in their local town or at their local sporting or social event. Daniel Meade cites the Farmers Union in Wales who has one officer for every 230 members and represents about 67% of their potential members.
Dr Wright said “unfortunately, the current convoluted 40-year-old Australian grass-fed cattle producer Peak Industry Council structure has resulted in disengagement by levy payers with only a fraction of Australia’s grass-fed cattle producers being directly or indirectly engaged as members.”
The proposed CPA Peak Industry Council model contemplates direct engagement between CPA and its constituents through the regional provision of members services. CPA also expects that the proposed CPA structure would include a formalised interaction between the SFO’s and the new Peak Industry body to ensure continued interaction with the SFO’s with respect to particular State issues effecting grass-fed cattle producers.”
Dr Wright went on to say that “an agile, quick to respond organisation is imperative in today’s agri-political environment and the CPA’s direct membership model, with its 15 electoral representative regions originally designed and promulgated by CCA, will allow producers close contact with their policy leaders, and CPA, once properly funded, will implement an online platform allowing all members to communicate issues as they arise and share with the organisation their concerns via online and telecommunication surveys.”
Dr Wright also said that “I wish to make it clear that despite assertions by Kathy Lovelock and others to the contrary, I have never claimed or implied that I have been charged by the current Federal Agriculture Minister with the responsibility of undertaking changes to Australia’s grass-fed cattle producer structures. My references to responsibility for the formation of a new body to replace CCA as Australia’s grass-fed cattle producer Peak Industry Council have always related to the establishment of the CPA Implementation Committee by former Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce in early 2015.”
Dr Wright concluded by saying that “CPA looks forward to continuing its discussions with the CCA and SFO’s to try and again reach a unified grass-fed cattle producer organisation position on the proposed reformulation of Australia’s grass-fed cattle producer Peak Industry Council”.