WAFarmers hopes wheat stance will win members

31 May, 2007 07:00 PM
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WAFARMERS general president Trevor De Landgrafft hopes the farm group¹s firm stance on the wheat single desk will attract more members than it might lose.

Mr De Landgrafft made the statement in the wake of revelations that diminishing membership numbers and reduced sponsorship opportunities have forced the WAFarmers board to carry out a critical autopsy of this year¹s budget and revisit spending priorities for the year ahead.

The deadline for subscription rene-wals falls today.

Last year WAFarmers generated $1.39 million in membership revenue, which was down slightly on $1.43m in 2005.

This year WAFarmers is budgeting to earn $1.36m from membership revenue.

Sponsorship revenue has also been struck by a downward trend, with $108,600 generated in 2005, $99,250 in 2006, with this year¹s budget set at $102,000.

WAFarmers admits subscription renewals are unlikely to be as high as previous years and is bracing for further drops in membership.

It says sponsorship dollars are on the way down mainly due to the drought forcing drastic reductions to spending priorities of many regional businesses and other regular supporters.

Mr De Landgrafft did not believe the group would lose many members over its stand on retaining the single desk.

He said the Federal Government¹s decision on wheat exports last week, which had given farmer organisations nine months to develop a grower-owned and controlled single desk management company, vindicated WAFarmers¹ actions.

³We pursued a direction that our members wanted us to take,² Mr De Landgrafft said.

³We have democratic processes in place although at the end of the day we can¹t please everyone.²

But former WAFarmers grains council senior vice president Julie Newman said WAFarmers had lost a great deal of credibility after forming the alliance with the WGA on the single desk.

Mrs Newman said she would not renew her WAFarmers membership this year.

The leading anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) campaigner said the main reason was her concern at the organisation¹s lack of democratic process.

³I do not believe this organisation is acting in the best interests of farmers,² Mrs Newman said.

³Despite policies derived from the grassroots up and determined by council, statements are made that do not reflect these decisions and therefore I believe it reflects a dictatorship, not a democracy.²

Mrs Newman said she estimated WAFarmers had lost around 500 members due to its hard-line stance on the single desk issue.

³I don¹t think WAFarmers has won any new members over its handling of the single desk issue and I am sure it will lose more supporters when they come to realise that the wheat export model they are promoting will be too expensive and not in the best interests of farmers,² she said.

Mrs Newman recently joined forces with a number of other disgruntled members and former leaders of WAFarmers Grains Council to form a new farm lobby group called the WA Grain Group (WAGG).

Mrs Newman said a number of WAFarmers members had contacted her group recently, looking to defect from WAFarmers to join WAGG.

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