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Australian Cattle Council : Yearbook 2010
10 YEARBOOK 2010 CATTLE COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA Foreword However, I remain positive within my own business that the opportunities will outweigh the challenges. Furthermore, I am confident that at Cattle Council we will continue to achieve success in those areas where we have control and influence. The biggest political issue that we engaged in was the Government's announcement in October 2009 to amend the policy that banned the importation of beef from countries that previously detected Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). Cattle Council has had a long- standing position on this issue, i.e. to support modernising the BSE import policy setting from a blanket ban to a risk- assessment approach because we believe it is in the best interests of Australia's beef cattle producers. Under the previous policy of a blanket ban and in the event of even a single case of BSE being detected in this country, domestic beef could have been removed from the shelves and major trading partners would lock us out of their markets. This would have a disastrous and long-term impact on the entire beef production chain. All sales, deliveries, processing, wholesaling and retailing would grind to an immediate halt with the loss of tens of thousands of jobs. We expect our trading partners to underpin their assessment of Australia's capacity to trade by scientific principles. If Australia wishes to access markets based on scientific principles (which we rely on for selling 65 per cent of our beef production), then other countries understandably expect to access our market under those very same principles. While on the topic of trade, our ambition to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with South Korea gained much momentum this year. Australia's beef exports to Korea have grown significantly in recent years with the market now worth around A$600m per annum. The United States has signed an FTA with Korea that will see the tariff on US beef imports fall from 40 per cent to zero over 15 years. Once this agreement is ratified by both countries' respective parliaments, Australia will be placed at a significant disadvantage relative to US beef. This disadvantage will only exacerbate as each year marches on. It is imperative that Australia strikes an equivalent or better deal to ensure that we remain competitive in this critically important market. Cattle Council will continue to work with the Australian Government and Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) in an endeavour to deliver the best possible outcome for our beef producers. On the home front, Cattle Council remains a committed advocate for the current industry structure and funding model of levy collection. Collecting and spending of levy monies on agreed industry programs has always been a hotly debated topic. For me, as they say, it is a 'no brainer' that industry must be able to fund and manage its own affairs and the retention of the additional $1.50 marketing component of the cattle transaction levy will help us to continue growing demand for beef, particularly in export markets. This year, the Government announced a Productivity Commission review of Rural Research and Development Corporations. This review will include an assessment of the policy justification for Commonwealth Government investment in rural research and development. This is going to be a critically important review for this industry as now, more than ever before, we as cattle producers must continue to improve cost-efficiency and productivity. We passionately believe that agriculture is different to other sectors in the community, and hence should be treated differently with regard to assessing the use of public money. Key points of difference include: the large number of small and medium sized businesses that make up our industry, the impact of changing seasonal conditions; rising Australian dollar and our exposure to export markets; competing internationally It is said that life is full of both challenges and opportunities; these past 12 months have certainly been no different. A high Australian dollar, ongoing climatic variability, soft demand in some export markets and prices that never seem to rise to levels that producers believe are fair and reasonable: just another year in the global beef industry. We passionately believe that agriculture is different to other sectors in the community, and hence should be treated differently with regard to assessing the use of public money.