Despite years of discussion around restructuring the grassfed beef industry, the state’s peak agricultural advocacy body has been forced to oppose change in the interests of farmers.
NSW Farmers President Xavier Martin said the proposed ‘Cattle Australia’ body – which was put forward to replace the Cattle Council of Australia, was “unrepresentative” and a lack of detail on funding, dysfunctional policy development capability and an undemocratic model were all key sticking points.
As a founding member of the CCA, NSW Farmers was invested in a strong peak industry body for Australia’s grassfed beef producers, Mr Martin said, but there were simply too many unanswered questions to support the change.
“NSW Farmers has long ensured the grassfed cattle industry is effectively represented at a national level,” Mr Martin said.
“At the end of the day we want what’s best for farmers – and we are unconvinced that this proposed body will deliver any real benefit to grassfed beef producers.NSW Farmers President Xavier Martin
“The proposed model at present is undemocratic, with no clear funding arrangements or business case.”
No beef with beef
While Australia represents only a small percentage of the global cattle herd, our country is the world’s third-largest exporter of beef thanks to our high quality, safe supply chain and disease-free status. According to the NSW Department of Primary Industries, NSW has the second-largest cattle herd in Australia with more than 12,000 farms exporting to the United States, Japan, Korea and China.
NSW Farmers helped establish the Cattle Council of Australia in 1979 to represent cattle producers at a national level, because it is such a major agricultural commodity. And over the years, NSW Farmers has invested a significant amount of money to ensure the Cattle Council and its work continued to support farmers in that sector.
However, Mr Martin said there were a number of challenges ahead for Australia’s grassfed beef producers – from biosecurity to animal activists right through to issues of productivity – that needed to be tackled in an effective manner. He said while there was a clear need for an industry restructure, he warned the Cattle Australia model was not a step forward.
“We cannot allow this important industry to be derailed by ineffective representation, and we’re worried that’s what is in store for producers under this current proposal,” Mr Martin said.
“The Cattle Council, which hasn’t taken our issues seriously or addressed our genuine concerns as a founding member through this process, needs to create the right model and get back to the negotiating table to work through these legitimate concerns.
“A clear business case and budget must be provided.”
Dispointment at outcome of vote
Following a Special General Meeting of the Cattle Council of Australia, NSW Farmers President Xavier Martin said he was “disappointed” for the grass fed cattle industry.
Cattle Council of Australia has announced it would establish Cattle Australia as a new peak cattle body on November 4, something NSW Farmers held grave concerns about.
Mr Martin said the draft constitution for the new body created an inequitable and undemocratic voting system for cattle producers, as well as other dysfunctional clauses.
“Under the new constitution, vote allocation will go off how many cattle you have. We want a system where it’s one vote per cattle producer, instead of based off cattle numbers,” Mr Martin said.
“Our priority throughout this process has been our cattle-producing members and making sure farmers get the best outcome.”
Mr Martin said NSW Farmers remained committed to strong national representation for the grass-fed cattle industry.
“Our members want a truly democratic model with policy process certainty and a functional business plan,” Mr Martin said.
“What has been voted for today is inconsistent with our cattle members’ policy expectations, and we want to consult with our members before we make any further decisions.
“We have been eager to discuss these concerns and find a constructive way forward in a timely manner, but that is now out of our hands. NSW Farmers is keeping its options open when it comes to representation of the grass-fed cattle industry, and we will make further statements about next steps in the near future.”
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