MPCI still firmly on WAFarmers agenda

29 Oct, 2010 11:21 AM
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The push for an MPCI scheme continues in the WA Wheatbelt.
The push for an MPCI scheme continues in the WA Wheatbelt.

WAFARMERS continues to push for a Multi-Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI) scheme with a quarterly zone meeting held in Merredin recently to find out what the Government was doing in response to seasonal conditions and the development of a MPCI scheme.

At the meeting a discussion took place about the lack of confidence in Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman and whether or not a motion of no confidence would be knocked back.

"There was certainly talk about the Minister and his advisers," former WAFarmers Merredin zone president Ian Lane said.

"Now growers in our area are taking a different approach to the situation and writing to people of influence.

"If you keep doing what you've always been doing, you'll always get the same result.

"The problem with the name, MPCI is that it's tainted.

"In the United States, MPCI forms part of the subsidy program."

In WA growers are looking at a scheme which would cover production costs rather than looking at net profits as well.

"Risk mitigation insurance is what we're looking at in WA," Mr Lane said.

According to South West MLC Nigel Hallett serious meetings continued to take place between WAFarmers, (insurance broker and risk adviser) Marsh and CBH.

"I'd really like to see CBH pick this up and run with it," Mr Hallett said.

It was also reported that a MPCI report discussed at a Kulin farmers meeting, to be presented to Mr Redman by MPCI advocate Noel Bairstow hadn't been received by the Minister's office.

Mr Redman said he hadn't received any proposals from WAFarmers or other members of parliament but would be happy to receive any.

The Marsh group proposal generated a vast difference of opinion among grower groups.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) president Rob Gillam said he'd viewed the proposal and was "unwavering" in his opinion of it.

"We've had one presentation on it and there's another one to come," he said.

"We are unhappy with the model because it's evident that there's some Government subsidisation in it.

"Unless the next presentation can show us any differently we won't support it.

"Taxpayers and the State shouldn't have to pay for the scheme and we won't support it unless it's a commercial venture."

Shadow Agriculture Minister Mick Murray has also joined the argument to have the current Government implement MPCI.

He recently called for the Barnett Government to examine the viability of a risk management crop insurance scheme for the future of agriculture in WA.

"Each week CBH is cutting its seasonal forecast by 500,000 tonnes due to hot dry conditions," Mr Murray said.

"Mr Redman is doing nothing to ensure the future of the industry.

"Under questioning in Parliament Mr Redman said he had not asked Treasury or the Insurance Commission to cost a crop insurance scheme.

"Furthermore he said he did not support the Government underwriting the scheme.

"WA farmers are hurting and the Minister refuses to consider the possibility of an insurance scheme."

Farmers have been pushing for the introduction of a Government-backed crop insurance scheme as a way to improve grain grower risk management strategies.

"The least Mr Redman can do is to complete a cost analysis into an insurance scheme," Mr Murray said.

"Farmers have lost confidence in the Agriculture Minister to look after their interests with WAFarmers Corrigin-Lake Grace Zone moving a no confidence motion in the Minister.

"The Liberal National Government must examine the viability of an insurance scheme to deliver sustainable long-term benefits to growers."

Former WAFarmers grains council president and Bencubbin farmer Derek Clauson wasn't so quick to dismiss Mr Redman.

"His department is providing information assistance and we're looking at working with that department down the line," he said.

"We'll approach the department to see how they can be involved and to ensure that we're not duplicating the same information."

Mr Clauson chairs a WAFarmers committee designed to look at models for risk coverage on a seasonal basis and said he hadn't heard that Mr Redman wouldn't cost an insurance scheme.

"Maybe in the future we'll be able to work together and pool the resources," he said.

"Farmers are unique in the business world because there are no tools to manage the risks we have to take.

"We're gamblers and we have no other choice."

He said MPCI was still as critical as always and his committee was set to look at proper risk management tools.

"The ideal outcome for us would be to be able to set up a scenario where we wouldn't need to look to the Government for help at all," he said.

"It would be from a commercial perspective and it would stand alone."

Mr Clauson assured growers the committee was "working furiously" to have something implemented by next season.

Following this year's rainfall figures many predict the 2011-12 season to be dry and growers didn't want to be caught in the same situation as this year.

"If we have another harsh season and there's no risk coverage then it will spell doom for many growers and the rural communities will also suffer incredibly," Mr Clauson said.

"The way I see it this season has been a one in 100 year event and we only have to look at some of the State's rainfall figures to see that."

Growers throughout the State had wanted to implement a risk management strategy since the 1990s.

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