Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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Australian cattle farmers are about to see some significant changes in the way their industry is represented. The Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) has been consulting cattle farmers, corporate and state farming organisations for the past 15 months to develop a model that best represents their industry, particularly the grass-fed cattle sector. Leading the consultation process has been CCA president Andrew Ogilvie from the southeast of South Australia.
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Since Ogilvie was elected president of CCA in November 2011, he has led the consultative process, travelling extensively to meet grass roots cattle farmers and a raft of corporate and state farmer organisations.

The delay in settling the FTA with Korea could mean Australian beef exports to Korea could be halved during the next 15 years.

The proposals are outlined in the CCA’s national beef strategy document “Beef 2015 and beyond”. The document sets out key performance indicators and deadlines so that farmers can measure the successes or failures of the restructured organisation to meet targets and deadlines.

Ogilvie says the key issues identified during the consultation process are: better co-ordination between farmer organisations and government. Particularly for improved market access for Australian beef and live cattle.

There is also a critical need to improve research and extension capabilities for on-farm productivity, meat processing efficiency and food technology.

Other challenges for the cattle industry are federal government legislation for carbon pricing and improving consumer perceptions about cattle farming as well as managing any negative public image created by animal welfare groups.

He says cattle farmers are the meat in the sandwich. They are at the mercy of news media organisations looking for emotive stories. It is up to them to present a positive image about farming and tell their story about animal welfare and safe, ethically produced food.

Global demand for beef is forecast to grow and there are opportunities for Australian beef to gain greater access to existing and emerging markets. To meet that demand Australian cattle farmers need a better infrastructure from farm to market that is adequately funded to professionally represent their industry.

Ogilvie says CCA is close to releasing a direct membership model. The most favoured structure is a 16-member board, with eight members elected directly by cattle farmers and eight appointed by SFOs.

He says CCA is presently funded by the red meat industry fund and SFOs, with a budget of A$1.3 million. The proposed restructure will more than double CCA’s operational costs to about $3.6m.

One of the funding proposals was to seek a share (30 cents) of the compulsory A$5/head transaction levy that farmers pay on the sale of their cattle. Ogilvie says the proposal is still on the table, but it is unlikely to succeed at this point in the negotiations because of the politics involved.

Key facts:

  • The Australian cattle industry is vast and extremely diverse, covering 48% of the continent
  • Cattle farming contributes about 1% of Australia’s GDP
  • Gross value of cattle and calf production at farm gate in Australia is about $8.1 billion a year. The off farm meat value is $11.9 billion
  • There are about 59,000 farms, farming 27 million head of cattle from more than 40 different breeds
  • In 2011-2012 Australia exported $4.7 billion worth of beef to 100 countries. Live cattle exports were valued at $650 million.
  • Australian cattle farmers are represented by many organisations:
  • Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) (funded by farmers with a compulsory $5/head transaction levy on cattle sales)
  • The Cattle Council of Australia (CCA)
  • Australian Beef Association (ABA)
  • Australian Lot Feeders Association (ALFA)
  • The South Australian Farmers Federation
  • Victorian Farmers Federation
  • Western Australian Farmers Federation
  • Pastoralists & Graziers Association of Western Australia
  • New South Wales Farmers Association
  • Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association
  • Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association
  • AgForce, a farming lobby group based in Queensland.
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