MEMBERS of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s new Agriculture Consultative Committee have been announced with Agribusiness Australia a surprise inclusion.
The Committee forms part of the ACCC’s Agricultural Enforcement and Engagement Unit delivered via the Coalition government’s $4 billion Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper released in July last year.
Australian Farm Institute executive director Mick Keogh was appointed the competition watch dog’s first ever Agricultural Commissioner and will work with the new Unit to address market power abuse and other supply chain issues.
Mr Keogh will Chair the 24 member Consultative Committee and said it would provide a forum for the discussion of competition and fair trading concerns related to the agriculture sector.
“We sought nominations and considered a large number of applications,” he said.
“Members were selected from a range of backgrounds and industries within the sector including peak bodies, industry associations and industry advisors.”
According to the ACCC, Committee members will provide input at meetings on: issues and processes affecting the agriculture sector as per the Competition and Consumer Act 2010; emerging issues or market developments of concern to the agriculture sector; and improving communication with the agriculture sector.
The Committee includes National Farmers Federation CEO Tony Mahar and Agribusiness Australia CEO Jan Davis.
Ms Davis is the former CEO of the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association which quit the NFF earlier this year due to concerns about its unification plans for national industry representation.
Elders CEO Mark Allison is the current President of Agribusiness Australia and also a former Executive Chairman of Elders and former CEO of GrainGrowers.
Mr Allison is currently a non-grower director of the GrainGrowers Board that last year was awarded joint Representative Organisation status for the Australian grains industry, under the prescribed legislation, by Federal Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Mr Allison was GrainGrowers CEO when the organisation used its $100 million capital base to challenge Grain Producers Australia (GPA) for the RO position and during that time also joined the NFF as a commodity council member.
GGL’s 2015 annual report says its key management - directors and CEO - were paid about $800,000 in total for 2015 and more than $1 million in 2014.
In contrast, GPA’s directors have not been paid - except out of pocket accommodation and travel costs, like flights - since taking on the industry’s RO role following the demise of the Grains Council of Australia in 2010.
GPA Chair Andrew Weidemann said last year, “We’re just volunteer farmers trying to do the job we took on, for the industry”.
GPA and GrainGrowers now share responsibility for oversight of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) which uses graingrower levies to conduct industry R&D with an annual budget of about $200m.
An internal GRDC document - obtained by Fairfax Media last year - showed GrainGrowers received more than $2m from the GRDC from 2011 to 2014 representing 74 per cent of the researcher’s allocation to industry representative groups.
In contrast, GPA received about $125,000 in the same time period, or 5pc of about $2.75m paid by GRDC to those groups, including grain groups of national State Farming Organisations, to assist consultation.
The Agribusiness Australia website says through “collaboration” its members had gained a “non-political advocacy voice for their cause creating new business opportunities and greater knowledge both within and outside of the sector”.
But it says “the lack of a cohesive industry voice has allowed in some cases special interest groups to hijack the debate and influence the community”.
“Policy decisions are then often based on poorly researched and/or information of dubious credibility,” the website says.
“If we don’t counter these groups Australia will squander many agribusiness opportunities,” it says.
“Australia’s current fragmented approach to agriculture and agribusiness opportunities will lead to massive financial, cultural and emotional loss therefore we must start now to prevent this.
“Agribusiness Australia’s inclusive industry approach enables our industry to be a coherent association, so we can command respect for our objective and evidence based platforms and positions.”
Agribusiness Australia said its mantra was “to advocate, be inclusive and spread knowledge for the sole aim of advancing agribusiness for the national good”.
“When Australia has a unified agribusiness sector the community and country gains the financial and cultural value this opportunity offers,” the website says.
“The community will be more educated and therefore make logical fact based decisions about their food and fibre.
“Our industry will have a greater opportunity to be proud of what we all do and have control of its own destiny.”
GPA will be represented on the ACCC consult committee by NSW grower Daniel Cooper and Grain Growers by its policy and advocacy general manager David McKeon who was recruited from the NFF.
ACCC Agriculture Consultative Committee Members first bullet point second bullet point third bullet point Australian Chicken Meat Federation - Vivien Kite Australian Food and Grocery Council - Michael Rogers Australian Lot Feeder's Association - Jim Cudmore Australian Meat Industry Council - Stephen Martyn Australian Pork Limited - Deb Kerr AUSVEG - Richard Mulcahy Canegrowers - Warren Males Cattle Council of Australia - Jed Matz Cotton Australia - Adam Kay Freshmark - Bill Chalk Grain Growers - David McKeon Grain Producers Australia - Daniel Cooper Grain Trade Australia - Geoff Honey Growcom - Pat Hannan National Farmers’ Federation - Tony Mahar NSW Farmers - Fiona Simson Primary Producers South Australia - Trevor Ranford Sheep Meat Council - Mark Harvey-Sutton Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association - Peter Skillern Voice of Horticulture and Citrus Australia - Tania Chapman WAFarmers - Dale Park Wine Grape Growers Association - Ben Rose Individual - Adam Jenkins (President of United Dairyfarmers of Victoria) Individual - Jan Davis (CEO of Agribusiness Australia)