Producers to the fore in new model?

MLA representatives have been confronted with some uncomfortable questions

MEAT and Livestock Australia (MLA) is responding to levy payer dissatisfaction by making internal changes.

How relevant those changes are will greatly depend on the levy payers.

MLA has worn criticism about a lack of transparency, and combined with depressed livestock prices, especially in the cattle sector, a feeling has built up that MLA is not doing as good a job as it should be.

A Fairfax Agricultural Media poll taken in June found 30 per cent of producers rated the organisation "poor" or "very poor".

These dissatisfactions might have done little to shift the organisation, had it not been that a Senate inquiry into levy disbursements coincided with the arrival of new managing director, Richard Norton.

As a vehicle for discovering truth, the Senate inquiry has been a mixed bag.

MLA representatives have been confronted with some uncomfortable questions, and also some wildly off-the-mark charges that should never have been on the table.

It has delivered a positive result, though, in that it has fired up the MLA board and Mr Norton to do more than shuffle the deckchairs on the good ship MLA.

The overwhelming message from levy payers has been they want more say in what goes on in the organisation.

The irony is a high percentage of levy payers don't engage with MLA by choice.

As of March this year, MLA had 41,460 grassfed cattle levy members.

Only about a fifth of them had registered for full voting rights, and only half of those registered tend to exercise their right to vote.

However, these changes could also be interpreted as a call for levy payers to play a more active role in MLA.

The regional councils, built around the Northern Australian Beef Research Council (NABRC) model, will only work if producers constructively engage with their council.

The linking of levies with voting rights (voting rights currently have to be applied for separately) only makes a difference if producers exercise their ability to vote.

More direct election of producers to the MLA board only works if producers of sufficient ability put themselves forward.

Mr Norton is making MLA a much more producer-facing organisation.

But implicit in that is a challenge: now the opportunity to engage is there, producers need to engage.

If they don't, the underlying message must be that they don't have the right to criticise.

FarmOnline
Matthew Cawood

Matthew Cawood

is the national science and environment writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first

READER COMMENTS

Inverell
24/08/2014 5:24:18 AM

MLA is a govt run organisation, moving a few things around won't change anything. They will do what the govt wants, just like they have done in the past. We still cannot control MLA, sorry Matt this is a con and is a way to quieten us down while still maintaining control. Get rid of MLA they are keeping the processors and the duopoly fat at our expense.
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