Growers reject levy for councils

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce attended a cattle industry meeting in WA last week, amid some criticism from industry about the Government's apparent failure to deliver on a sustainable representative body for the industry.

Mr Joyce attended an Agricultural Industry Advisory Council meeting in Bunbury, which was also attended by industry and political leaders.

The meeting was part of a Statewide four-day selling tour of his long-awaited $4 billion Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

Negative sentiment about the Government's failure to leglislate for the grassfed levy to fund a united cattle industry body had previously been fuelled by peak industry body Cattle Council president Howard Smith.

The Cattle Council issued a press release earlier that day, stating it was "disappointed that the Government and Mr Joyce had not been able to deliver a better outcome for grassfed industry representation".

He said Mr Joyce had been slow in taking 20 months and a Senate inquiry to deliver little more than to "leave the door open" for industry to take control of its own destiny by developing its own structure.

The Cattle Council has now agreed with Mr Joyce to lead a process to finalise a proposal that will include a new strategic plan for the industry, the new structure for beef industry representation and a sustainable funding model.

PGA Western Sheep and Beef Producers chairman Digby Stretch said he wasn't surprised about the Federal Government's decision about the levy.

"The levy was never intended to be funding peak councils in the first place," he said.

"And to have started using the levy for that would have opened the floodgates for what is essentially a research and development levy, to start funding all the peak councils.

"So for that reason I also understand his decision."

Esperance black Angus breeder David Johnson said he didn't believe there was a need to have an inquiry into the levy in the first place.

Mr Johnson runs several thousand black Angus cattle on his 800ha property.

"My attitude has always been to elect people through a democratic process and those people should be allowed to do their job," he said.

"For the 50 years I have been breeding cattle, much of the levy money spent has seemed to go on worthwhile causes, like marketing our product in other countries.

"In my view, Meat and Livestock Australia has done a good job and things should be left as they are."

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