THERE’S no denying the livestock industry has been the victim of conflicts of interest due to the relationship between livestock agents and processors.
We saw this relationship exposed during the Barnawartha boycott.
The industry was shocked when agents acted on behalf of producers without consultation and sided with processors to enforce post-sale weighing of cattle at the Barnawartha Saleyards.
This was a clear failure of agent accountability; an act that reverberated around the whole industry.
Producers should feel they can trust their agents to represent their best interests. We are the clients after all, and agents have a responsibility to represent the interests of their clients.
The VFF livestock group has led the charge to have the system changed to force agencies to operate fairly and transparently. It’s been a primary focus of the livestock group for two years.
Last week we had another breakthrough when the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released its final report into the red meat sector.
The competition watchdog recommended that all agents, auctioneers and buyers needed to be licenced, pushing accountability on to the agents who act outside accepted practice.
This is a major victory for livestock producers, but the real challenge is yet to come.
As the peak body representing Victorian livestock producers, we pushed for the competition watchdog to investigate the anti-competitive behaviour at Barnawartha.
And we pushed for a separate Senate inquiry, which is ongoing.
But we now need to ensure the ACCC’s recommendations are followed, and not just brushed aside.
It is up to us to work with the state and federal governments – in conjunction with the national peak industry councils and the Red Meat Advisory Council – to ensure the recommendation that agents are licenced is signed into law.
The ACCC came to the same conclusion we have always known – a successful livestock industry relies on the farmers’ rights being protected.
It is now a responsibility of the VFF livestock group to ensure the agency sector is held to account for their duties.
Leonard Vallance, VFF livestock president