Young farmers want single desk

20 Nov, 2007 09:00 PM
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YOUNG, progressive farmers support the single desk and don’t want to see deregulation introduced in any form.

That was the clear message delivered by a group of determined young farmers at a special meeting held in the central Wheatbelt last week.

Eleven growers from Beverley, Brookton and York met with Farm Weekly to put forward their firm views on wheat marketing and send a clear warning to anyone thinking of messing with the single desk.

The group, with an average age of 31, said they were motivated to speak out and express their opinions after becoming increasingly frustrated with the media’s coverage of the issue.

The young guns also sent a clear warning to any Federal politician thinking of altering the wheat export system by offering their full support to the Wheat Export Marketing Alliance (WEMA) and its bid to establish a new grower-owned and controlled entity for next harvest.

All but one member of the group said the AWB had done its dash as the single desk manager.

The farmers said it was now time to get behind WEMA’s move to set up a new and improved single desk.

They said WEMA was planning on improvements to the current system by removing cost duplications.

The group’s members place retention of the critical buyer of last resort at the top of their list of reasons for supporting single desk marketing.

Beverley grower Brett Shaw said abandoning the single desk could not be considered, even for drought and record international grain shortages.

“This whole thing has happened at the worst possible time for wheat growers,” Mr Shaw said.

“The harvest is low because of the drought and grain prices are high, so it’s not hard to sell your crop, but in a surplus year that’s when we really need the single desk.

“I’d like to see how we go without it if we have a bumper harvest and world supplies go up again next year — that would really test our ability to sell grain.”

The group’s decision to speak out came during the same week that a potentially damaging Roy Morgan survey, conducted on behalf of the Grains Policy Institute, suggested Australia’s wheat export marketing arrangement was not a major concern among wheat growers.

The survey found that just 7pc of the 500 participants recorded strong opinions each way on the removal of the wheat export monopoly.

The institute is a new policy think- tank aligned with the Wheat08 propaganda website.

ASIC records show the two shareholders in the company are CBH and GrainCorp.

GrainCorp company secretary Nigel Hart and CBH corporate affairs manager Rhys Ainsworth are its two listed directors.

About 500 growers from across Australia were surveyed on topics such as the future of wheat marketing and growers’ key areas of concern.

The survey found grain marketing was less important, behind climate change and economic factors such as grain prices, among growers’ priorities.

The Beverley farmers said they were outraged at how the report was being interpreted and questioned the majority of its findings.

In particular, they were concerned that CBH had commissioned a report that failed to support their beliefs that most growers wanted to retain single desk marketing and supported it, whatever its form.

Ben Murray, a 32-year-old Beverley grower, said he was “extremely suspicious” of the survey’s findings.

“You would have to seriously question who is behind this report and why CBH is using our money to campaign against us,” Mr Murray said.

“There’s no doubt the survey has a hidden agenda and there’s been some clever interpretations done on it in the media, but none of us are buying what it’s trying to sell.”

Last week’s meeting was convened by Mr Murray’s brother and fellow Beverley grower Damien Murray who said there were many WA farmers sharing his opinions.

Mr Murray said it was a myth to say that only progressive farmers supported deregulation.

“That’s a load of garbage and nothing but a myth that’s continually floated in the media, in my opinion,” Mr Murray said.

“I am a young, progressive farmer but I support the single desk and a lot of others from farms in this area and around WA share similar views to me.”

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