Australian beef growers worried by White Paper power shift threat

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 12th July 2019

The Australian Red Meat Industry is embroiled in a power struggle over moves to centralise its broad industry sectors into one amalgamated body. Cattle growers fear losing a full say in the spending priorities of their industry despite paying a very substantial percentage of government mandated industry levies.

The Federal Government’s Department of Agriculture is still considering an earlier green paper, nowissued as the Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC) Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) White Paper, on proposed changes to the Industry’s existing framework.

The White Paper was released on 4 July 2019 and references the RMAC 2030 Meat Industry Strategic Plan.

There has been previous limited industry consultation about strategic planning, as well as two Senate inquiries into the state of the red meat industry.

Three major changes are recommended by RMAC for the Memorandum of Understanding;

  1. A new ‘Red Meat Australia’ agency to replace RMAC. The new body would receive all industry levies and government matched funds. The new body would be responsible for allocating the funds throughout industry, under their own advisement.
  1. A Single Red Meat Service Provider who would determine ongoing research and development programmes, resources and activities in co-operation with existing peak body councils.
  1. Enhanced integrity arrangements to strengthen and co-ordinate the ongoing functions of SAFEMEAT, AUS-MEAT, MSA & NLIS and create a mandatory integrity systems forum.

Don Mackay, the current independent chair of RMAC, has endorsed the White Paper recommendations that a new body, Red Meat Australia, should be the single voice for all Australian red meat businesses, with control over all levy investment, public policy, social licence and domestic and international marketing.

However, the cattle farmers argue that the move to centralisation is designed to weaken the independent voices of the different sectors of the Australian red meat industry and supply chains, in the face of growing opposition to red meat production by Green lobby groups.

Wholesalers and processors will have a major role as members of the proposed new body. The farmers are concerned that their powers over their own industry will be lost to the relative power of each of these other groups, despite the major financial contribution being collected by the new body from mandatory levies imposed on the farmers.

Click here for a copy of the WhitePaper.