By PETER HENDERSON
NEW WAFarmers meat section president Mike Norton has slammed the State Government for giving apparent low priority to legislation allowing the distribution of shares to WAMMCO producer-shareholders.
He said it was clear by the sort of issues receiving media attention in Parliament that agriculture and industry in general were not high priorities of the State Government.
"Livestock is very tight and that's why WAMMCO needs shares to allocate to their key suppliers and form alliances," he said.
He said 80pc of WAMMCO's kill was supplied by about 655 producers with another 2500 producers supplying the other 20pc.
Mr Norton, who is in a family dairy, beef and sheep enterprise, based at Capel, said the management side of WAMMCO was as desired and all that needed doing now was to ensure a good association between company and key stakeholders.
"The whole thing is in a state of limbo and it's the share issue that is holding that up," he said.
"Once the shares are issued the company can put the co-op in the hands of its rightful owners who can give the board some direction on where they want to go."
"This government's priorities are obviously not with agriculture," he said.
WAMMCO has extended its free supply-share offer until June 2003 as encouragement to more producers to expand lamb production with the co-op.
The WAMMCO share issue was only one piece of unfinished business motivating Mr Norton to once again take over the reigns of WAFarmers meat section president from Barry Bell, who has decided to devote more time to his farm.
Mr Norton who played a major role in WAMMCO becoming a producer-owned co-operative through his earlier six-year stint as meat section president, said he also wanted the new WAMMCO board structure changed.
He said the new board ratio of three producers and three independents (pig processor, lawyer and accountant) should in fact be 4-2 in favour of producers.
"WAFarmers meat section strongly holds the view the WAMMCO board should have a producer majority," he said.
Mr Norton, who lost his WAMMCO director's position in a recent board reshuffle, said that while independent board members had played an important role the Co-op was now facing different challenges, which did not require the same expertise.
The main challenge was sourcing livestock.
He said while banks had forced the presence of independents on WAMMCO during its early stages, the co-op was now in a much better financial situation than when it began in August 1999.
"In the end we need directors that have some comprehension on the delivery of livestock and how we are going to build the supply chain," he said.
Mr Norton said until the shares were issued WAMMCO was still owned by its original six co-op board members.
A spokesman for Agriculture Minister Kim Chance said the priority for the legislative amendment allowing the share distribution was scheduled for the spring session of State Parliament, or towards the end of the calendar year.
However, the spokesman said the minister was looking to see if he was able to bring the legislation forward to the present (autumn) session of parliament, as recently requested by WAMMCO and WAFarmers.