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MLA MD promises to engage with farmers

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Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) managing director, Richard Norton, has promised to involve beef producers in research and marketing decisions.

MLA is currently facing tough criticism from a Senate Inquiry into beef levis, ABC Newsreports.

Norton said he’ll be out talking to farmers to hear what they want, and to promote MLA’s achievements.

“MLA particularly in pastures is developing a new legume 'Tedra' (from the Mediterranean) which will take on lucerne,” Norton said.

“In terms of Breed Plan in the Australian cattle herd; it’s evolving and coming up with new measures to improve the performance of the Australian cattle herd.”

“Meat Standards Australia (that grades Australian beef) is a program that is now nearly a decade old, it delivers premiums above the grid price for cattle,” he said.

“The average premium is about 28c/kg of dead weight on a carcase of 240-250 kilograms. That premium is about $60-$70 a head, with 30 per cent of Australian cattle herd is going through MSA, that’s $160-$170 million a year. It costs MLA $3.5 million a year to run.”

Norton admitted there is some criticism of MLA for being too heavily influenced by the processors, but said the processors would say it’s the other way around.

“MLA is the pathway for processors to access matching funds from the Government. So the producer is doing objective measurements of carcases etc. MLA is doing development of innovative products for the consumer.”

“A major part of my role for certainly the next two years, is be in front of levy payers having the debate about what MLA is delivering.”

MLA’s response to a review, into the organisation's handling of research has yet to be released publicly, despite being completed 12 months ago.

Norton said the board has instructed him to respond immediately on an effectiveness and efficiency review on the research and he said he’ll be asking producers what they want research and development levies spent on.

"It’s all about engagement by MLA staff and being accountable."

Researchers are concerned about the shrinking budget leading to no new projects.

Grass fed cattle levies are $5 from every cow sold, and the prolonged drought in Queensland and northern NSW has decimated the herd, which will lead to Australia's lowest numbers in 20 years (26.1 million head in June 2015).

Norton agrees it's a problem, and says the MLA Board has instructed him to look at how to maintain the research and marketing budget.

Image: ABC

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