GGA set for wind up

25 Mar, 2013 01:00 AM
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THE Grower Group Alliance (GGA) is set to wind up in the next 12 months.

GGA connects grower groups across WA and has been funded by Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) for 11 years.

But due to a number of issues the GRDC recently made the call to stop funding the organisation from June 2014.

According to GRDC western panel chair Peter Roberts the GRDC's decision to end its funding had been made in the context of significant organisational change that provided increased opportunity to engage the input of WA grain growers.

Mr Roberts said over the past 12 months, GRDC had launched a number of initiatives designed to increase the level of interaction between GRDC and individual growers and grower groups as well as advisers and agribusinesses.

In WA, this included the appointment of a regional grower services manager, three Regional Cropping Solutions Network (RCSN) co-ordinators, communicator and science writer positions and a panel support officer.

It also includes the establishment of five RCSN networks, each involving 12 industry representatives, located in the Kwinana east, Kwinana west, Albany, Esperance and Geraldton port zones.

"As a result of these changes, GRDC has reviewed its funding priorities in order to ensure the best possible return for its investment of grain-grower levy dollars and public funds," Mr Roberts said.

"As part of this review, a decision was made in the west that the core activities currently undertaken by the Grower Group Alliance (GGA) will be effectively transitioned into the RCSN initiative, therefore providing a consolidated platform to co-ordinate two-way interaction between GRDC and individual grain growers and grower groups."

Mr Roberts said GRDC was confident the new structure would increase the involvement of grower groups in the delivery of grains research, development and extension (RD&E) activities in WA.

He said the new structure provided greater opportunities for WA grain growers to influence future investment decisions to ensure research outcomes that provide solutions to on-farm problems and increase yields and farm profits.

It also helped to make sure that grain growers get the information they needed, when they needed it, to make good decisions about farming practices.

"In order to allow for a fully effective transition to occur, GRDC funding for the GGA will continue until June 2014," Mr Roberts said.

"During the transition period, consultation with grower groups, including a submission process, will take place to ensure that all the key roles of the GGA are captured under the new structure.

"GGA served a vital role when it was formed 11 years ago to co-ordinate new grower groups and facilitate effective interaction with GRDC.

"However, GRDC's new structure is designed to meet the needs of a changing grain industry environment and deliver the best possible outcomes to WA growers."

Southern DIRT and Evergreen Farming executive officer Erin Gorter said the GGA had been a fantastic resource for local grower groups.

"Having been involved with grower groups at different stages of formation I have seen that GGA has been of great value all the way along," she said.

"Southern DIRT is a relatively new group and the GGA provided many services to set the group up professionally.

"Evergreen Farming has been around for 10 years but the GGA has still been of value.

"It presented a number of opportunities for all grower groups around the State to network."

South East Premium Wheat Growers Association (SEPWA) chair Lyndon Mickel said without the alliance there would be a significant hole in the communication networks between groups.

"The GGA has been good at providing access to what other groups are doing," he said,

"And the annual conference they hold gives an excellent opportunity to swap ideas and meet people from other areas."

While they would miss that side of things, Mr Mickel said it was likely to be the smaller groups that would feel the loss most.

"The smaller groups don't have the access to staff or funding that larger grower groups do, I think that is where GGA played an important role for them," he said.

Bodallin Catchment Group chairman Brad Auld said it was concerning, particularly for a small group such as theirs.

He said the GGA had been a great point of contact for guest speakers or sponsors, was a networking tool for all grower groups and assisted in trial and research work.

"At the moment we are going through a structural change and GGA has helped us through that," Mr Auld said.

"It would be a serious concern to see it go."

Mr Auld was also worried there was not yet a plan in place to replace the role of the GGA.

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