Improving communication with grassfed beef producers is the top priority of Cattle Council of Australia chief executive officer Margo Andrae.
Ms Andrae, who was the guest speaker at Livestock SA’s southern region meeting in Robe last weekend, says technology has increased the avenues to communicate but often made it more difficult to effectively engage with members.
She used the example of the recent Livestock Production Assurance rollout which had generated 214 media items but took face to face workshops with producers to finally ensure its success.
Ms Andrae, who has been in the job for nine months, is confident CCA can remain the peak representative body for grassfed beef producers, despite the 2014 Senate Inquiry’s push for it to unite with other beef groups.
She defended CCA’s decision to withdraw last month from 3.5 years of discussions with the Australian Beef Industry Association, Australian Meat Producers Group, Northern Pastoral Group and NT Cattleman’s Association to create a directly-elected national grassfed producer representative organisation.
She says the proposed model was not workable as it was based on access to producer levies for the day-to-day running of the organisation, which is not possible.
It also excluded input from state farming organisations, which represent a large proportion of beef producers.
She says politicians’ focus with CCA has switched back to beef industry issues.
“In my first few months I have never been so disheartened having senators at the drop of a hat call me up to discuss the restructure,” she said. “When I said can I talk to you about our trade with Indonesia or the new Cattle Health Declaration they would say come back later.”
The way forward for CCA, according to Ms Andrae, is to increase the number of independent directors from the existing two; a northern and southern director.
CCA is keen to put in place an independent chair and remain engaged with state farming organisations.
“Changing the organisation won’t fix the issue. We have got to change the way we run the representative organisation,” she said.
“We will improve the way we do policy, we will improve the way we communicate and increase the independent pathways to be on the board. You need to understand exactly what Cattle Council’s role is and exactly how to get your issue heard with us whether you are a member of a state farming organisation or an independent member.”
During her SA trip, Ms Andrae also visited the Mount Gambier monthly store cattle sale and properties including Mt Schanck Station.