MLA welcomes greater oversight from producers

15 July 2015

MLA acknowledges today’s announcement by Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce of his response to the recommendations from the Senate Inquiry into Industry Structures and Systems Governing Levies on Grassfed Cattle.

MLA Managing Director Richard Norton said the company had listened, and would continue to listen, to feedback from industry. MLA has taken steps to directly address both the concerns of levy payers highlighted through the grassfed cattle levy Senate Inquiry and the recommendations made in the 2013 Systems Review into levy investment in on-farm R&D.

“MLA has fundamentally changed the way it operates. We listened carefully and we have undergone a complete review of the business to become more efficient, more transparent and more accountable for every levy dollar being invested on behalf of the industry,” Mr Norton said.

“MLA consults regularly with the Peak Industry Councils through our Annual Operating Plan and the Meat Industry Strategic Plan, so decisions on levy investments are never made in isolation, but we have put new systems in place so that we can also speak more directly with levy payers.

“We want levy payers to have a greater say than ever before in how their levy is being invested, through improved consultation and greater transparency across the business.

“We are constantly working on being a future-looking organisation that delivers long term value back to the farm gate.”

Mr Norton said efficiencies have delivered $6.5 million in fixed cost savings across the business over 12 months, more effective levy payer engagement and the development of a new regional consultation model to better inform the future research priorities of producers nationally.

“Our new website launched in June this year provides a clear break down of the levy streams and key projects. The industry deserves greater transparency around how their levies are being spent, and MLA will continue to hold itself accountable."

A number of industry-driven research projects are also underway which directly respond to the grassfed levy Senate Inquiry - gaining a better understanding of who levy payers are, and to gain a greater understanding of price transparency across the value chain.

Speaking at over 40 producer forums in the past year, right across Australia, Mr Norton said a number of common themes arose around the levy.

“Talking directly with more than 1,000 producers and industry representatives, it’s clear that we need to do more to explain MLA’s role:

  • We are the service provider to our industry and not the industry's political representative (this is the role of Cattle Council of Australia for grassfed beef producers);
  • Our strategy and Annual Operating Plan undergo detailed consultation with, and are approved by industry each year;
    There are strict guidelines under MLA’s Statutory Funding Agreement which defines how the levy can be invested;
  • The Department of Agriculture collects the levy (not MLA) and manages its allocation;
  • Grassfed cattle levies can only be spent on marketing, research and development activities for grassfed cattle, with the same applying for sheep and grainfed cattle;
  • The MLA Donor Company delivers real returns to the red meat industry through investment in innovative, leading edge technology. We acknowledge we need to better communicate these benefits, along with the knowledge that no producer levies are invested in the MDC."

Changes to MLA’s constitution at the 2014 AGM included a reduction in the number of MLA Directors and a second grassfed representative will join the MLA Board Selection Committee, following the 2015 AGM, alongside representatives from the feedlot and sheepmeat industries.

“We will continue to ensure our management of the levy investment is best practice and will continue to listen to cattle, sheepmeat and goat levy payers to ensure we’re delivering what they need, for the best possible future of their industry,” Mr Norton said.

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