Strong debate over GPA representation

28 Apr, 2011 04:00 AM
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WAFarmers Grain Section president Kim Simpson said the GPA would be irrelevant to WA growers and both WA state farming organisations would fail to be fairly represented under its umbrella.
WAFarmers Grain Section president Kim Simpson said the GPA would be irrelevant to WA growers and both WA state farming organisations would fail to be fairly represented under its umbrella.

WAFARMERS has labelled Grain Producers Australia (GPA) a "redundant organisation".

The fact there were less than five growers at the GPA's meeting in Northam at the start of the month has also only contributed to a number of farmers asking the question, how relevant is the GPA to WA?

With the Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) and WAFarmers acting as peak industry bodies for WA growers on a national scale, WAFarmers Grain Section president Kim Simpson raised the question, how could the GPA perform a non-political function and represent both state farming organisations (SFOs) effectively?

With the PGA and WAFarmers so utterly opposed on just about every agricultural issue in the book, only time would tell.

In last week's Farm Weekly Mr Simpson made WAFarmers' position very clear.

He said the GPA didn't represent the bulk of growers by a long way and the GPA sounded good in theory but in practice wouldn't work because the men charged with the leadership of the GPA failed to represent growers' best interests during the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) collapse.

He said the representation of all WA grain growers by the GPA was mission impossible and growers didn't need any more money to come out of their pockets to fund a redundant organisation.

But one of the GPA's WA directors, Barry Large didn't accept Mr Simpson's view and reiterated that the GPA was formed after a series of grain industry roundtables run by the Grains Council of Australia (GCA).

He said the meetings were called specifically to discuss a succession strategy for national grower representation because GCA was likely to be wound down due to a dysfunctional SFO membership model and financial stress.

He said WAFarmers attended the first roundtable meeting in October, 2009 and the outcome of the first roundtable was supported in principle by WAFarmers, represented at the time by Derek Clauson.

"The GCA subsequently presented a discussion paper to the industry prior to a second roundtable and it was at this time that WAFarmers backed out of the industry process," Mr Large said.

"It became clear that NSW Farmers Association and WAFarmers backed out because SFOs would not have power and control over the proposed structure.

"It was at this point that they took their ball and went home with the exact attitude shown to GCA by these organisations which was the key reason GCA failed."

Mr Large said after that WAFarmers declined to attend the second roundtable meeting.

He said despite the negativity from WAFarmers, the GPA was built on strong principles around transparency and accountability and had, to this end, released its policy framework to provide a policy process for audit and operating framework to ensure confidence.

Mr Large denied that the GPA had talked about increasing its membership fee or any industry levies.

"Mr Simpson attacks the credibility of the GPA with inuendo about its individual position around deregulation," Mr Large said.

"Deregulation has happened, it will not be undone and the way that debate was managed, particularly by the naysayers was an indictment on our industry.

"The inability of supposed leaders like Mr Simpson to accept that the desk is gone and actually get on with providing a better future for producers is more a reflection of his shortcomings than any of the GPA team."

He said Mr Simpson and WAFarmers had been left with egg on their faces "as they scrambled to justify their relevance in the modern grain industry by trying to re-establish an exclusive national body that entrenches the worst aspects of the failed GCA".

"The Australian grain industry is worth about nine billion dollars at the farmgate and producers deserve an effective and professional representative structure to ensure the commercial interests of all producers are well served," he said.

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