Beef industry reform 'overdue'

10 Feb, 2015 01:00 AM
Barnaby Joyce's refusal to respond to this report leaves cattle growers in limbo

LABOR Senator Glenn Sterle has repeated demands for Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce to act on structural reforms to benefit the beef cattle industry, as recommended in a far-reaching Senate inquiry.

Mr Joyce launched the inquiry into the $5 per head levy shortly after he came into office after the 2013 federal election.

A subsequent inquiry chaired by Senator Sterle saw the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee hand down its report last September.

Its leading recommendation was to establish a producer-owned body with “the authority to receive and disperse the research and development, as well as marketing component, of the cattle transaction levy funds”.

Work has since gone on behind the scenes between Mr Joyce and industry to progress the major reforms - but the Western Australian Senator says time is running short for the government.

He has reiterated calls made to Fairfax Agricultural Media last November calling on Mr Joyce to adopt the bipartisan report’s recommendations into the system of levies placed on Australia’s beef industry.

“Mr Joyce needs to listen to the views of the industry and overwhelmingly that is in support of the recommendations of this Senate inquiry report,” he said.

Senator Sterle said the inquiry uncovered a levy system that was “ineffective and poorly managed”.

He said growers viewed the levy system as benefiting only small segments of the industry, despite levies being paid by all cattle growers.

“Cattle growers need to feel that the levy system benefits the entire industry and I believe that the recommendations of the inquiry report will go a long way to ensuring that the system is fair and equitable,” the long-term Committee member said.

“Barnaby Joyce likes to think of himself as representing rural Australia, but his continued refusal to respond to this report – a report that was back by his Coalition colleagues – leaves cattle growers in limbo.

“Only by swiftly taking up the recommendations of the report will Mr Joyce ensure that cattle growers will once again have faith in the levy system.”

Mr Joyce has also come under renewed pressure to introduce the reforms from beef industry think tank, the Australian Meat Producers Group (AMPG).

The group launched a social media campaign last week, aimed at maintaining momentum for a proposed Grassfed Cattle Corporation to replace the Cattle Council of Australia (CCA).

A new website is asking cattle producers to vote for action, to gain control of their levy and industry.

“For the last decade the cattle producers of Australia have received ruinous prices, paid record costs and controlled nothing,” the website says.

“The Senate Committee has recommended that the grassfed cattle producers should control their own industry and their own levies.

“Will you please give us your support to control our own levies and take control our own industry as the Senate Report recommends.”

In a statement, AMPG co-founder Cameron MacIntyre said Mr Joyce was to be congratulated for his leadership in establishing the Senate Inquiry.

However, he said, “cattle producers do need to publicly support these much-needed reforms recommended by the Senate Committee”.

"In 2013-14, grassfed cattle producers made up $61.5 million of Meat and Livestock Australia's (MLA) $117.5m levy income,” he said.

“But despite contributing more than half of the income, grassfed producers received very little of MLA's output.

"At the same time, Australian producers are going slowly broke, last year receiving less than $2 a kilo for liveweight steers, almost half the returns to US producers for similar stock. Producers are exiting daily - and urgent action is required to restore our sustainability.

"Cattle producers desperately need a well-resourced, accountable body with a sharp focus on improving profit in the industry.

“In short, we need to follow through on the Senate Committee recommendations for a Grassfed Cattle Corporation directing its energies towards strategies that restore the future of grassfed beef production in Australia.

“Producers are not trying to destroy MLA by removing funding,” it says.

“Producers merely wish to assume control over their levy funds, the same as other industry bodies do, and manage how MLA uses it.”

A spokesperson for Mr Joyce said the government was still considering the inquiry’s recommendations, within the broader context of the red meat sector and would deliver a response in due course after proper consultation with industry and affected stakeholders.

“It is clear that there are varying views within industry as to how the inquiry’s seven recommendations should be responded to,” the spokesperson said.

“On December 19, 2014, Mr Joyce held a meeting with relevant industry bodies and organisations to discuss issues relating to the inquiry’s seven recommendations in order to better inform the government’s response.

“This meeting complements ongoing engagement with affected stakeholders since the Senate report was released in September last year.”

The CCA has been contacted for comment.

Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


Chick Olsson
10/02/2015 4:53:19 AM

Great to see Glen Sterle pro actively pushing for reform of levies. Well done Glen.
10/02/2015 7:40:50 AM

Well said Senator Sterle. Minister Joyce appears not to be able to get his head around the issue the "steakholders" he consults are predominantly recipients or "wanna be" recipients of the Tax (levy). He completely misses the point that it is the grass fed producers whom pay the levy (tax) and have no control over its expenditure and also have received no benefit from the marketing levy. In fact no records exist to confirm who paid the tax (levy) For Goodness sake, he has to adopt all seven Senate recommendations and get this mess sorted out!
10/02/2015 7:49:41 AM

Does Minister Joyce think it would be a good idea for Centrelink beneficiaries to have a plebiscite into whether they wanted to increase or maintain their benefits. That process is exactly the same as asking the beneficiaries of the levy money if they should have their funding reduced or increased. As Margaret Thatcher said, "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money." That's right the main contributor of grassfed levies (the livestock producer) is running out of money and Minister Joyce must adopt all seven Senate recommendations.
10/02/2015 8:33:59 AM

lets hope its a bit more constructive than that stupid nlis scheme. money pit for everyone except the farmer. more work, more costs and less profit for the farmer.
10/02/2015 12:04:27 PM

let the reform bring change in the beef industry.
Bushfire Blonde
10/02/2015 4:34:10 PM

Yes farmed, there is no doubt that the stupid NLIS is largely a complete waste of, in a lot of cases, hard earned money. Lets get a social media campaign to get rid of it for those who do not directly benefit from it. For those who maintain that it is a good marketing tool traceability wise, well it isn't because quite a bit of the time, it is based on a lie. I wonder how many people attach an orange tag when replacing tags that have fallen out? - I think not many, yet that is what the law is.
John Hine
11/02/2015 5:33:00 AM

I see people are still thinking about industries and not companies. We really need to be thinking about companies and products, which means a whole new approach to R&D.
angry australian
11/02/2015 6:18:50 AM

How does Sen Sterles recommendations benefit the cattle industry, again it appears to be a reshuffling of the deckchairs on the Titanic. Farmers should be asking, "what's in it for me?" Arguably the whole system should be scrapped, researchers, advertising agencies and various carpetbaggers have been attracted to the money pot like hyenas but have farmgate profits gone up? Would we be worse off if we had nothing to replace the MLA and the like? After all domestic sales aren't increasing under the present system.
Northern Exporter
11/02/2015 8:04:54 AM

Bushfire Blonde; thats why we have to have a plebiscite (referendum) of levy payers and vote down the levy; NLIS and LPA will then be defunded
11/02/2015 8:20:33 AM

Angry, I'd really suggest you read the complete Senate recommendations in detail and think about it. You might see glimmer of hope and if they were all adopted all your other thoughts above could well happen. Doing nothing allows the Titanic to sink faster!
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