The White Paper:  ‘Red Meat Australia’

CPA has given careful consideration to the Red Meat Advisory Council’s (RMAC) recent White Paper and clearly acknowledges that it does not provide each industry sector adequate control over the expenditure of its levies.

The White Paper that was written by an ‘independent’ Taskforce established by RMAC is considered by many to be not so independent and in fact the Taskforce members were appointed by RMAC.

The Senate Inquiry into the effect of market consolidation on the red meat processing sector stated in 5.86 of the Report that, “The Committee recognises that such a review will be complex and that it will have to consider the respective legislation and service agreements. At the same time, the review cannot be led by one sector of the industry. The committee has previously raised serious concerns about the role and representation of RMAC. Given that RMAC would be one of the organisations under review, the committee does not believe it would be the appropriate body to undertake such a review.” 

Despite the gravity and impact of any structural changes to an industry of this size and importance, stakeholders were only given four weeks to put in a submission. CPA and others from the industry requested an extension and the closing date was extended by another two weeks.

The proposal for a ‘Red Meat Australia’ single organisation and voice for the whole red meat industry does not explain how it would or could resolve the inherent commercial conflicts of interest between the various sectors of the red meat industry:-

  • Processors seeking to buy livestock  as cheaply as possible whilst producers seek to obtain the highest price possible for their livestock;
  • Producers seeking to obtain the best possible price for their livestock by selling  through the live export trade whilst processors commercial interests would be best served if the live export trade was banned;
  • Cattle producers and sheep producers competing for the largest share of the Australian domestic red meat market.

The White Paper does not reflect the 57 submissions to the Task Force Review or the recent Senate inquiries, the ACCC Cattle and Beef Market Study, and the numerous other studies that have been undertaken. However the White Paper is consistent with the Opinion piece published by the chair of RMAC, Don Mackay, in  August 2018 before the Red Meat MoU review was announced (CPA responded in a press release to this article).

The rationale for the proposed amalgamation of MLA, AMPC and LiveCorp to avoid duplication of services is spurious at best when the bulk of the AMPC and LiveCorp levies already flow to MLA under the terms of the current MoU.

The comparisons between Cattle Producers Australia’s Submission that is an inclusive, participatory representative democratic organisational structure and the proposed Red Meat White Paper ‘Top Down’ organisational structure are undeniably worlds apart.

See links to the schematic Top Down Bottom Up comparisons created by CPA:
Red Meat Australia Diagram from White Paper proposal PDF
Proposed CPA’s Red Meat Industry Structure Diagram PDF
Red Meat Industry Structures Diagram PDF

CPA’s submission identifies three indispensable pillars of criteria for an effective reform structure for the red meat industry:

1. Two-component organisational structure for each red meat industry sector comprising:-

  • a levy funded R&D corporation which could contribute to joint and core MLA functions and policy development R&D for it sectors advocacy peak industry council;
  • an adequately funded, accountable, transparent and directly elected levy payer’s peak industry council;

2.  A funding model and amended MoU which delivers levy payer control of the rate, collection and expenditure of the levy;

3. A multi-sector, whole of supply chain, representative body capable of delivering robust representation and ‘thought leadership’ on a ‘white list’ of issues agreed upon by the industry sectors.

CPA proposes:

  • That each industry sector be given enhanced control and direction over the expenditure and investment of the levies that its members pay;
  • That each industry sector will have a levy funded R&D company and a representative advocacy body similar to the current two-company structure of the processor and live export sectors;
  • That MLA remain as an R&D service provider for the red meat industry as a whole and for each of its sectors;
  • That the RMAC be restructured as a needs-based organisation to deal with whole of red meat common commercial interest supply chain issues only;
  • That the RMAC Red Meat Reserve Fund be redirected and proportionally allocated to each industry sector peak industry council to invest and control;
  • That the amended MoU will provide for each sector to contribute some of its levies to MLA for joint and core functions; and
  • Importantly, each sector of the red meat industry would have improved access to funding for policy development and advocacy.

Interestingly a recent Nuffield Scholar, Danial Meade studied the various farmer organisational structures around the world, his report titled Agricultural Organisations: Farmer engagement and his eight recommendations set out at the end of the Nuffield Report identify the following factors that are essential underpinnings of a successful agricultural advocacy body.

  • Simplified flat fee subscription structures for advocacy groups.
  • Increase membership opportunities for all farmers and associated interested stakeholders.
  • Provide clear opportunities for grassroots members to influence direction.
  • Local branches/committees must remain as they are the foundation of entry engagement.
  • Majority of authority positions to be farmers elected by farmers.
  • Increased investment in farmer facing employees, including regionally based office staff.
  • Employment of locally based territory field managers.
  • Have clear farmer led objectives to explain performance and demonstrate value.

CPA insists that all sectors of the industry have ownership and active involvement in the decision making processes within their own sector and that Red Meat Australia should at the behest of the industry sectors promote ‘white list’ issues agreed upon by the industry sectors. 

CPA Submissions on the MoU Review and Press Releases

July 2019 CPA Rejects RMAC’s White Paper Proposals as Damaging for the Red Meat Industries

July 2019 Beef Central – Red Meat White Paper: Producers Control of grassfed levies remains key issue

July 2019 CPA delivers a second statement against the MoU Review White Paper

July 2019 Beef Central – Red Meat MoU White Paper: Ag Minister, Cattle Groups Responds

July 2019 Dr Paul Wright interviewed on ABC Country HourRed Meat Australia would leave cattle producers even more alienated.  …The position of the Grass-fed cattle transaction levy payer, they pay the levies and deserve to be represented and they deserve to have a say in how their policies are developed.

April 2019 Cattle Producers Australia – Final Red Meat MoU Review Submission in Response to the Green Paper

March 2019 CPA News Letter urging producers to comment on MoU Green Paper

April 2019 CPA calls for option 5: The Law of Accord: Structure which follows from Strategy

April 2019 CPA Submission to the MOU Review Task Force for the Green Paper

February 2019 Beef Central – CPA urges producers to comment on Red Meat Green Paper

February 2019 CPA calls on producers to comment on the Green Paper for the Red Meat Review

August 2018 CPA press release in response to Don MacKay’s Opinion Piece

August 2018 Farm Online – Don MacKay’s Plea for red meat policy security to reduce Government interference