Campaign to dump board

27 Oct, 2004 10:00 PM
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A GROUP of cattle producers want the board of Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) dumped at the annual general meeting next month, because MLA is pushing ahead with the controversial National Livestock Identification System.

Australian Beef Association president John Carter was leading the campaign.

Mr Carter told Farm Weekly more than two hundred cattle producers throughout Australia had signed a petition to replace seven of the ten elected MLA directors at the November 17 AGM.

"The MLA's board has lost touch with reality," he said.

Mr Carter said MLA was wasting an incredible amount of money levied from growers to promote NLIS in Astralia.

But it ignored huge opposition to the system from members.

Similar systems had already failed overseas, he said.

"The UK's a good example. They've got seven hundred bureaucrats tracing ten million cattle and 20pc of them are missing," he said.

MLA chairman David Crombie was extremely disappointed at the reaction of some members to the NLIS.

But said sacking the board was not the answer, he said.

"Traceback's a fact of life in the food industry,² he said.

³It's our belief and that of government that we should be putting a system in place now, before it's put in by someone else.²

Mr Crombie said not all producers were enthusiastic about NLIS but MLA's job was to make the hard decisions even though those decisions might not be popular.

"The industry is in a strong position and we must use this strength as a platform to drive change to meet the future challenges that face the industry,² he said.

³MLA's job is to anticipate these changes and develop systems that keep us in front."

Mr Crombie was not concerned about a minority call for the board to be stood down when the majority of levy payers were happy with MLA¹s performance.

"I'm reasonably confident,² he said.

WA's only MLA director Peter Trefort defended the board.

He said if Australian producers did not take up the NLIS, Australia could find itself in the same place as the US - where overseas markets didn¹t want its beef after a BSE scare.

"Prices have never been better and we need to protect them at all costs," he said.

Mr Trefort said WA producers had not been as vocal about NLIS as producers in the eastern states. Five thousand producers voted against the scheme in Queensland.

"Here some people are saying it might be a pain in some ways but as part of an overall management program there's lots of benefits," he said.

³NLIS is not on MLA¹s wish list, it's on a government wish list and the MLA's been put in to run it.²

"I'm reasonably confident. But when things are good people tend to get a bit blasé and don't vote. And if people don't vote the minority could have a win," Mr Trefort said.

Australian Beef Association Dampier region representative John Hewson did not want to make extended comment on the debate.

³All levy paying producers should be consulted on the NLIS," he said.

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