Reformed champions ready for next phase

27 Apr, 2016 11:45 AM
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Australian Grains Champion grower directors Clancy Michael (left), Brad Jones and Sue Middleton will be back on the radar following seeding with plans to work for what they believe is a strong support base among WA growers.
Australian Grains Champion grower directors Clancy Michael (left), Brad Jones and Sue Middleton will be back on the radar following seeding with plans to work for what they believe is a strong support base among WA growers.

AUSTRALIAN Grains Champion (AGC) directors are on the tractors, but come June, WA growers can expect the group to be championing for their cause once more.

Grower director Sue Middleton has alluded to work going on behind the scenes in preparation for their next attempt to get their proposal to growers.

She said CBH board "has no right" to refuse to allow AGC into its books before presenting its proposal to growers.

"We're working behind the scenes because of the support we've got from growers, and all of the growers that we have talked to have universally said to us that they want the AGC proposal to be put to members for their votes," Ms Middleton said.

"We've got a large body of support from growers and we have been getting an enormous amount of positive feedback about the fact that we have been the lightning rod for change.

"That's really good but the problem is that those same people are saying that they don't trust the board to actually undertake a review process and get on with implementing the process as their philosophical position leans towards the co-operative."

Since news broke of the AGC's intentions to transition CBH into a commercial entity via a grower vote earlier this year, CBH has revealed its much-anticipated network strategy.

AGC's drive into the market was led by Ms Middleton, from Wongan Hills, Mingenew grower Clancy Michael and Tammin grower Brad Jones with the backing of former CBH director Samantha Tough and John Corbett.

The co-operative has acted to review its structure and governance following the rejection of the AGC proposal, which would offer up to $1 billion to WA growers for their shares.

Ms Middleton said the internal review process being flagged by CBH as the way forward is a "time honoured delay tactic to try to out wait the AGC bid".

She said AGC's poll of growers at their series of meetings earlier this year indicated two thirds of respondents want the AGC proposal to be put before growers by the AGC board.

Ms Middleton said CBH survey results were worked to elicit a certain answer.

"I think the really positive thing out of the push polling is almost 90 per cent have indicated they want structural review," she said.

"The question they should've asked is would you support the full AGC proposal being presented to growers?

"They have not been asked that question.

"The point is the grower, as a member of the co-operative, gets to vote on this after we do due diligence.

"We still believe the CBH board has no right to make that decision on behalf of members."

Ms Middleton said AGC investors in GrainCorp and HRL Morrison & Co, acting on behalf of underlying Australian superannuation investors, had both invested $300,000 into the group and were sticking by their decisions.

"The investors are going absolutely nowhere but time is still of the essence because money has value and we have attracted some of the finest quality Australian institutional investors," she said.

"We have presented to growers an opportunity to be able to bring in an investor that has enormous strategic value for us in terms of our future in South East Asia."

Ms Middleton said the process CBH was creating was long-winded and would further disadvantage WA growers.

She said it was not good enough to have an initial six month consultation process, a report to growers with shortlisted feedback and another potential consultation process on the results before a final decision was reached.

"We don't need to wait for those time frames, we need to put this before growers while we still have the investors very keen," she said.

"If we jump into this now and we went through the due diligence and other processes, this could be before growers for a vote in that same time frame (for CBH to report to growers in September).

"In the time it will take CBH to do the consultation, come up with some options, then we'll be in harvest and then next year we start looking at all of this again."

Ms Middleton said CBH's new network strategy, which maintains 100 bins for the future and would wind down the remaining 102 sites, is a step in the right direction.

"The tragedy is that AGC had to happen to get it out in the open and to have it publicly aired," she said.

Ms Middleton said CBH had been discussing the network strategy concept without releasing details to growers or acting for two years, delaying something that needed to be acted on swiftly to ensure competitiveness.

"There's two years there that we haven't been making the decisions and using a network that we all know we need to be able to build to be more efficient," she said.

"To get the grain to market faster you have to do different things rather than just making sure you're looking after a local bin and our plan is to do that.

"We still have what we believe is a superior plan but we're happy that they've at least improved their approach."

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READER COMMENTS

Interested Party
28/04/2016 8:27:06 AM, on Farm Weekly

An interesting read however the statement made that "the CBH Board has no right to refuse to allow AGC into its books" is unbelievable. Why would any business in their right mind let a competitor view their confidential books? The other interesting comment was about growers not trusting the CBH Board to review the structure. If this is the case why did WA farmers vote their board members back in? It sounds like fun times ahead in the West.
Lucy
25/05/2016 9:44:44 AM, on Farm Weekly

Good on you AGC, keep the pressure on! We are right behind you 100%

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