Cattle Council of Australia president Howard Smith, chief executive officer Margo Andrae and vice president Tony Hegarty.

CCA balances finances as it moves towards restructure

PEAK producer group Cattle Council of Australia has made solid ground towards balancing its finances as it guides the transition towards an improved representation model.

CCA posted a surplus of $86,737 for the 2016/17 financial year, with a total equity position of $885,173 for the full year.

It is the second year in a row of surplus following a long run of being in the red and comes on the back of very strategic financial management based on ensuring every expenditure returns value to the producer, according to chief executive officer Margo Andrae.

Ms Andrae, who had been acting CEO since the departure of Duncan Bremner in March, was permanently placed in the position at the conclusion of the annual general meeting in Alice Springs last week.

The move towards a direct-elected grassfed beef producer body, in line with senate inquiry recommendations and demands from levy payers, dominated discussion at the AGM.

CCA president Howard Smith said the next year presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for beef producers to design the national body they want.

The $500,000 government leadership grant CCA has just received would pave the way for broad consultation with producers on exactly how the new body, Cattle Australia, would look, he said.

Work on the restructure to date has come up with 15 regions based on production localities having democratically-elected members. That would filter down to a board of seven which would also include two skills based members and an independent chair.

“Our target is by the next AGM, the vote has been taken and we have 15 regional people elected,” Mr Howard said.

There was “no appetite” from government for a portion of levies to fund the group so long-term sustainable funding options would be the key issue to address, he said.

Asked about the role of State Farming Organisations (SFOs) - which have traditionally played a key role in the make-up of representation on CCA - Mr Smith said there was no reason they could not participate by putting forward their candidates in the regions.

He was also asked why CCA was “jumping to the government’s tune” in relation to following senate inquiry recommendations, to which he replied: “It has been the overwhelmingly desire expressed by levy payers to have the ability to participate in a direct elected model.”

Mr Smith said the balanced budget this year reflected CCA’s concentration on multiple funding streams and the commitment to steadily increase reserves over time.

Ms Andrae said one of the key things achieved this year was increased communications outputs.

“We have really wanted to get a better understanding of what levy payers are thinking and at the same time deliver back to them what is going on around the policy development space - where we are advocating,” she said.

“And we are very much engaging with politicians to make sure they understand the grassfed levy payer’s voice.”

Mr Smith said it would be business as usual in areas such as trade and market access, an outcomes based language, objective carcase management and beef imports to Australia  to ensure producers were represented throughout the transition period.

He said the appointment of Ms Andrae as CEO would afford stability and leadership as the industry moved forward in a challenging environment over the coming years.

"Margo's leadership will bring new direction and a stronger focus on communications, stakeholder engagement and advocacy within the Australian cattle industry,” he said.

Re-elected CCA directors at the AGM were Markus Rathsmann, Brett Hall, Tony Hegarty and David Lovelock.