NTCA's recipe for success

10 Mar, 2014 01:00 AM
We don't stand in line and wait to be called.

ONE of the most effective voices in farm advocacy in recent years is also one of the smallest: the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association (NTCA).

The NTCA's membership has grown over the six years that its outgoing executive director, Luke Bowen, has been at the helm, running against the trend for most farm groups.

NTCA has some advantages that few advocacy groups can enjoy, but its structure also flags some important principles for success.

It is small, with about 300 members, and it is focused on a single commodity, beef.

More than 90 per cent of the commodity's northern stakeholders are members, with a healthy mix of corporate enterprises, family aggregations, Aboriginal landholders and individual pastoral enterprises.

"We can go into a room and say we represent the industry," Mr Bowen said.

"That's not a luxury everyone has."

"When something comes up, we can move within minutes and present our position. We usually know exactly what our policy position is on any issue, and if we don't, we can quickly access key people and come up with something very quickly."

Although NTCA is a member of National Farmers' Federation and Cattle Council, "we don't fall in behind the peak bodies".

"We don't stand in line and wait to be called if we need to take up something with the Prime Minister or the Minister for Agriculture. And we maintain those lines of communication all the time, regardless whether things are going well or not," Mr Bowen said.

"That keeps the national bodies honest. You're often told that something is being looked after, when it's not."

With few "free riders", NTCA can clearly lay out its value proposition.

When pastoral land values jumped five-fold, and pastoral rents looked like hiking in proportion, the NTCA was able to negotiate a change in the multiplier used to calculate land values to hold statutory charges constant.

"We could demonstrate tens of millions of dollars worth of savings to our producers," Mr Bowen said.

"Something like that is very tangible: we can take a spreadsheet to a producer and say, you might have paid $100,000 in membership fees over the past three years, but we have saved you $800,000 in rent."

NTCA membership fees are cattle-based: 25 cents per branded head, with a minimum payment of $500.

Matthew Cawood

Matthew Cawood

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


10/03/2014 4:28:40 AM

It will be interesting to see if they are still as effective now that Luke has moved on.
10/03/2014 6:10:45 AM

Didn't the NTCA support the live export ban that could have been averted by direct negotiation with our customers, instead of shooting their own members in the feet
Bushfire Blonde
10/03/2014 6:20:37 AM

Congratulations to the Grass Roots based NTCA! Agforce take note! This organization has not got so close to the Government that it cannot exist without its funding because it has severely neglected its Grass Roots in the process. I bet NTCA is basically a democratic organization that is driven by the Grass Roots. Time & again with Agforce, good ideas from its once Grass Roots (most of its roots have died) have been thrown out by the senior management. It is quite ridiculous how Agforce allowed cattle producers to be lumbered by schemes like the NLIS
Jo Bloomfield
10/03/2014 6:31:16 AM

A typo in there, the maximum subscription fee applicable is $36,000. Luke has been a great executive director of NTCA and was instrumental in helping to co-ordinate NTCA, producers and politicians to talk and get live export back on track. He will be missed but the current executive are going to great lengths to find a suitable person is found as replacement. I'm sure with the NTCA having so many pro-active members the direction of NTCA will continue to grow and improve.
Top Ender
10/03/2014 6:38:02 AM

"Cometh the hour, Cometh the man"
Don't be a Wally with our money.
10/03/2014 6:48:10 AM

Simple message for state and national farm bodies. Stay focused and nimble. Keep fees down. Don't become another voice for the LNP. Don't allow ideologically driven leaders to take charge. Don't allow leaders to run for parliament for at least ten years after they have held a organisation position. Accept that the farming world has changed since the 1950s and protectist policy are a thing of the past. Base decisions on sound science and evidence not on the views of old irrelevant men.
Brad Bellinger
10/03/2014 6:56:46 AM

Good article Mathew. NTCA certainly seems respected within the Industry .I do know of a similar organisation that used to also provide a bit for every one of course the voting structure was unpalatable for them so they left. Despite NTCA having a high representation percentage unfortunately a few large processors holding hands with MLA let them down.
south of the border
10/03/2014 1:50:58 PM

Interesting comment -"we don't fall in behind the peak bodies" - "That keeps the national bodies honest. You're often told that something is being looked after, when it's not." That’s what makes these 2 groups redundant, they cant be trusted to act in our best interests. That’s where NTCA gets it support from, acting on grassroots policy, and why we must all boycott the SFO that will not. Jettison the expense of duplication as Luke Bowen has rightly pointed that out.
Northern Exporter
11/03/2014 6:52:03 AM

To compare NTCA with the other SFO groups is like comparing apples with oranges. Most of the cattle enterprises in the NT are corporate owned and the voting entitlements within NTCA favor these corporates. “Managers” hold positions in NTCA rather than owners and that’s a big difference in terms of Equity. NT cattle corporations have been running huge financial losses but are still operating; a position a private owner anywhere in Australia could not sustain. NTCA operates as an Executive; private members seldom get a branch motion past the Executive. So is it really that great?


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