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Greens back recommendations on grass-fed cattle levies

Australian Greens Senators Rachel Siewert and Pete Whish-Wilson have supported the Senate Inquiry report into Industry structures and systems governing levies on grass-fed cattle, and tabled some additional comments to the Committee to address issues that will have long term bearings on the industry.

"The Greens understand the importance of supporting farmers and graziers to ensure that their industries and communities remain viable in the years ahead," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens agriculture spokesperson said today.

"Through the Committee process and our own consultations, we have sought to work closely with farmers and industry groups to hear and address their concerns. The Committee heard that low returns to grass-fed cattle producers and high costs of production, including the challenges of drought, have led to questions about the role and effectiveness of a grass-fed cattle levy investment in the areas of research and development (R&D) and marketing.

"During the Inquiry, the evidence presented to the committee raised concerns about the return received for levy investment, the representation of their sector and their ability to influence the decision making process in regard to levy investments.

"The levy system is a complex one, and the committee has made a number of recommendations to address concerns raised during in the inquiry. The recommendations include that a producer-owned body be established by legislation to utilise R&D and marketing components of the levy, and that a cost-effective, automated cattle transaction levy system be developed," said Senator Siewert.

Greens Senator for Tasmania, Peter Whish-Wilson said today that some obvious additional issues that impact low returns to farm gate prices, were not included in the terms of reference and should be addressed by a future inquiry.
"Low real returns in farm gate prices in Australia are not just related to inefficiencies in the meat industry and levy structure, but are also likely to be related to high market concentration power in both the processing and retail industry. We believe these issues should be examined at an additional Senate Inquiry," Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said.

"The Greens also hope that any new producer group uses its levy pool to fund more innovation, marketing and research incentives for producers. This will assist them to move up the value chain, to develop their own brands and direct-to-market distribution networks as a means of addressing the concentration of market power in the retail distribution networks.
"Other issues, including the use of levy funds to help the development of enhanced processing capacity in Northern Australia as a means to mitigate the market and operational risks posed by live cattle exports could also be examined by the Committee at a later date," Senator Whish-Wilson concluded.


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