CATTLE Council of Australia President Howard Smith has denied the peak cattle industry body is facing uproar despite losing its CEO after just six months.
“I wouldn’t say there’s turmoil,” Mr Smith said on revelations CEO Duncan Bremner had moved on last week.
“We’ve decided to part our ways.
“Obviously Duncan handed in his resignation (but) I’m probably not going to go into a lot of detail, as far as the specifics.
“With some of these things, you sign a deed of confidentiality and people move on.
“I wish Duncan well, going forward.
“As far as we’re concerned, we came to an agreement for all concerned that we’d move forward and that’s where it’s ended.”
Mr Bremner is a former CEO of Animal Medicines Australia and started the CCA role earlier this year, taking over from Jed Matz who held it for nearly four years.
Sources close to the issue gave a mixed ranged of views, with some saying Mr Bremner was frustrated by the CCA’s inability to embrace change amid a major restructuring process and others saying he didn’t pass a six-month performance review.
Mr Bremner has declined to speak to media about his shock departure.
But in a statement, Mr Bremner said the Australian cattle industry was his passion and it has been a privilege to have had the opportunity to lead the CCA.
“Unfortunately though, I have come to the conclusion I am not the right person to lead the CCA in its current form through the significant reforms they must undertake,” he said.
“I wish the CCA the very best in its endeavours to represent the grass-fed sector of Australia.”
Ms Smith said in the interim, CCA had some “talented and loyal” staff that could manage the organisation’s affairs in the short term, until the board resolved a pathway forward to appoint a new CEO.
“We’re not going to rush into things - we need to take time to assess what we need to do to move forward,” he said.
Mr Smith said the CCA board held a teleconference meeting on Sunday night and he also met with staff last Friday.
“At the moment everything’s under control,” he said.
Mr Smith said CCA was “a very complex organisation” with ongoing challenges managing core tasks, in the absence of a sustainable funding base.
He pointed at the CCA’s challenges trying to implement a new structure - a direct elected model of representation for cattle producers - as well as core business, like oversight of Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), but with limited resources.
“It can be challenging at times,” he said for a CEO managing a peak representative body’s affairs, but also with a commercial slant.
“Running things on a limited budget, working with our service provider (MLA) on service agreements, lobbying and developing policy and everything in between makes it a challenging role and one which you need a multitude of skill-sets.”
Mr Smith also pointed to a time lapse of about four years since the Senate inquiry into the grass fed beef cattle levy-system was first instigated by Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.
The inquiry recommended a producer-owned body be established by legislation with the authority to receive matching government research and development funds - that currently go to MLA - with CCA to be examined as part of the suggested process.
Mr Smith said accessing the $5 per best levy to build a sustainable model for the CCA was a challenge that had been “dragging on for a long time” but had been ruled out.
“We came up with a direct-elected model and now we’ve been given the task - and it hasn’t been an easy one - to try and find a sustainable way to fund it,” he said.
“We’ve explored a lot of options and we’re still exploring those options but it has been put forward by government and departments that there’s not a lot of hope in getting direct levies to fund the new organisation so we have to look at other opportunities to fund it, going forward.
“But in the interim we have day to day policies and business that we have to look after and manage and oversight our service provider and work with them.
“One of the options is looking at whether there’s an opportunity to look at supporting some of the work we do, whether it’s developing policy or consulting with industry, in some sort of service agreement.”