Agriculture minister David Littleproud called on cattle producer representative bodies to reunite for the greater good of the industry during an on-farm gathering at Eldorado recently.
The minister met with Cattle Producers Australia (CPA) members as well as members of local branches of the Victorian Farmers Federation at the home of Wangaratta VFF president Natasha Lobban.
CPA chair Dr Paul Wright travelled from Taroom in Queensland to meet with Mr Littleproud and call on the minister to financially support the organisation.
He outlined how a unified agreement was reached in February 2015 by industry leaders to deliver a truly representative new grass-fed cattle producer body to replace the Cattle Council of Australia.
Dr Wright also noted that the need had been recognised in recommendations from two Senate inquiries and endorsed by the recent ACCC Cattle and Beef Market Study Report.
However he said progress in establishing the CPA was being hampered by the lack of promised seed funding.
“The approval of the $500,000 federal grant from the Leadership in Agricultural Industries Fund – to be allocated for CPA seed funding and leadership – was withheld after Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) members unilaterally withdrew from the Implementation Committee in January this year,” Dr Wright stated.
“In the absence of access to the funding the volunteer Implementation Committee members have been funding the establishment of CPA themselves, paying all their own travel expenses and obtaining all the necessary professional assistance to hold constitutional workshops and incorporate CPA.
“We have now just started on the CPA membership drive and the grant funding was to provide for meetings and seminars in each of the 15 regional electorates that form its representative base.
“It is a big ask for the volunteer Implementation Committee to continue to fund this out of their own pockets”.
Mr Littleproud reportedly advised the meeting he had withheld payment of the grant in the hope the CCA would return to the CPA Implementation Committee process in accordance with the original plan.
“It should be an industry owned body, it should be a body where you and your grassroots (members) tell me exactly what you want and how you want your representatives to walk into the halls of Canberra and tell me what they want,” the minister told the meeting.
“The biggest problem I have is when three or four different bodies from one industry tell me three different things.”
Mr Littleproud said producers had unique concerns that needed to be addressed and offered to facilitate a meeting between the Cattle Council and and CPA Implementation Committee.
If that meeting was successful the $500,000 would become available immediately, he added.
Dr Wright was at pains to highlight the Senate reports acknowledged the level of dysfunction in cattle producer representation, citing events surrounding the 2011 suspension of the live cattle export trade to Indonesia.
He said The Red Meat Advisory Council was incapable of making a decision because of the conflicting commercial interests of the industry sectors it represented.