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.