Differing views at levy Senate inquiry

28 Feb, 2015 01:00 AM
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WAFarmers Grains Council president Duncan Young was supportive of the GRDC and its work.
WAFarmers Grains Council president Duncan Young was supportive of the GRDC and its work.

SENATORS involved in the inquiry into marketing and research and development levies heard differing views on the worth of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

Representatives from the Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) were critical of the research and development (R&D) group's activities in front of the panel, while WAFarmers presented the opposite view.

The opinions were presented as a part of the hearings process for the industry structures and systems governing the imposition of and disbursement of marketing and research and development (R&D) levies in the agricultural sector inquiry.

PGA Western Graingrowers chairman John Snooke's testimony mirrored many before him, suggesting the GRDC was lacking in consultation with growers and wasn't focusing on issues that would help WA growers better their operations.

However, the Meckering grower did say the PGA supported the concept of levies "we believe it's a system problem".

"In 2009, the number one issue was frost tolerant wheat, to this day all we get from the GRDC is a glossy magazine claiming they're doing something about this," he said.

Mr Snooke used an example from his own property where he now employs spading techniques, something he said the GRDC is only recently beginning to research.

"The GRDC has come in late on the issue, we've done all of the work, we've got it to a point until it worked in the field," he said.

"I paid my fertiliser company to do a study and acted on what I was seeing.

"As spading has become more popular and more mainstream we've seen the GRDC claim it.

"We've moved on from how we farmed in the 1950s, but it wasn't the GRDC that did this.

"It was just farmers at the coalface, building on how we do things and changing farming."

WAFarmers Grains Council president Duncan Young in contrast was supportive of the GRDC and its work.

He was also supportive of a levy system and a restructure of the GRDC to an industry-owned corporation.

He said the GRDC's fault was not communicating the research and techniques it had been developing, instead allowing full credit to go to organisations such as the Department of Agriculture and Food.

The duo's views on consultation also differed, with Mr Young highlighting WAFarmers' involvement in industry consultation as being fruitful and Mr Snooke describing it as "frustrating".

WA Senator Linda Reynolds delivered a tough line of questioning to Mr Young, highlighting that WAFarmers was contradicting a trending view observed across the country over several days of local hearings.

"I don't think it's right for any organisation that spends hundreds of millions of dollars and are doing all of this research and we've heard today that the people who pay the levies don't see the benefit and the organisation is opaque at best in terms of governance accountability," Ms Reynolds said.

"It's not just the GRDC, we've heard this from other commodities, the organisation you're describing to me and while you're being kind to them, just doesn't seem to be a very effective organisation."

A final report with recommendations into the inquiry is expected to be presented by June 30 following some further hearings with industry groups including the GRDC and Horticulture Australia.

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