Author Topic: Can farmers not co operate to create good welfare? Weekly Times 1.02.2012  (Read 906 times)

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Can farmers not co operate to create good welfare? Weekly Times 1.02.2012
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2012, 06:49:36 PM »
PRODUCERS must embrace change to counter activists.

 Support for the Cattle Council of Australia's proposal to seek funding from the compulsory transaction levies will determine whether beef producers want a lobby group to take up the fight against activists.

Beef producers lost last year's fight when the Federal Government temporarily shut down the live export trade with Indonesia.

And it would be foolish of them not to be ready for more battles.

On-farm handling, transport, saleyards and live export will be easy prey for activists if producers are not prepared.

Until recently producers expected Meat and Livestock Australia or Australian Wool Innovation to fight or to at least assist livestock producers in these battles.

But those days are over as MLA retreats to its core business as an administrator of marketing and research.

Australian Wool Innovation has adopted a similar line.

Producers, whether or not they are paid up members of a farm organisation, have to ask whether they want a lobby group and, if so, how best could it be funded.

There are not many options, particularly on funding.

That is why the Cattle Council is proposing that a small portion of the MLA's $45 million levy-sourced marketing funds be diverted to the council.

If the necessary amendments are approved by Federal Government and supported in Parliament, the marketing levy will be relabelled "marketing and representation".

To win support, the council has accepted it will need to broaden its representation, whereby producers who are not members of Cattle Council's state affiliates will be able to vote or seek election to a restructured body.

Some producers might shudder at the thought their compulsory levies will be used by a lobby group. But this is not a novel idea.

In the mid-1980s, the then Labor Government and Agriculture Minister John Kerin approved arrangements whereby the statutory marketing and research bodies, such as the former Australian Wool Corporation, Australian Wheat Board and Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation provided consultative funding to peak bodies.

The rationale was the Government wanted strong peak commodity bodies to determine policy and lobby for trade and marketing issues at a time of increasing deregulation.

Consultative funding was phased out or chopped in the late 1990s when the designated peak bodies came under increasing pressure from splinter groups over disagreements on policy.

Cattle Council's latest proposals for funding and representation result from a realisation it no longer has the funding to do its work.

This situation is the result of declining membership among state affiliates due to a combination of reasons, including farm attrition, disenchantment over policy and inability of members to pay subscriptions.

The problems are not isolated to the beef sector.

The other national peak commodity bodies such as WoolProducers and Sheepmeat Council will be watching with interest the progress of Cattle Council's proposals.

Both WoolProducers and Sheepmeat Council are under-funded and under-resourced and face the same challenges from activists as the beef sector.

The Cattle Council model to tap the compulsory levies with the provision of opt-out member clause could easily be replicated in wool and sheepmeat.

The council's confidence in its proposals have been strengthened by the South Australian grain experience where 5 cents of a 21c/tonne state research is directed to the South Australian Farmers Federation.

This levy arrangement includes an opt-out request with only 5 per cent of South Australian grain producers choosing to do so.

For Australia's beef producers, it might not be a question of opting-out of a levy funding arrangement but rather one of opting out of taking up a fight for their rights.

    Brian Clancy is a senior Weekly Times reporter
« Last Edit: February 20, 2012, 02:17:23 AM by WA Export News »