Snooke steps down from PGA grain helm

23 Oct, 2015 01:00 AM
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Meckering grower John Snooke has stepped down from his role as the Pastoralists and Graziers Association Western Graingrowers Committee chairman, after more than four years driving the organisation's grains portfolio.
I'm a diehard PGA person, I'm not going anywhere.
Meckering grower John Snooke has stepped down from his role as the Pastoralists and Graziers Association Western Graingrowers Committee chairman, after more than four years driving the organisation's grains portfolio.

PASTORALISTS and Graziers Association (PGA) Western Grain-growers Committee chairman John Snooke has stepped down from the top spot after four and a half years at the helm.

The Meckering grower told his committee last week his place was with his young family and growing farm business, but it won't be the last the agricultural industry hears from him.

"It's time for me to have a break, I have a young family and my responsibilities are at home and have increased with a young family and my farming business," he said.

"But we (the PGA) aren't going anywhere.

"We're just going to spread the load and have a think about the committee structure over harvest and early into the New Year and we'll come back and I'm sure there will be a new chairman."

Mr Snooke, a long-standing supporter of genetically modified (GM) crops in WA, plans to remain the committee's spokesperson on the topic.

He will also stand by his friend and colleague in Kojonup grower Michael Baxter as the on-going court stoush against Mr Baxter by neighbour and organic grower Stephen Marsh continues.

"I'm staying on as the spokesman for the Marsh vs Baxter case because that's something I've been deeply involved in and I really want to see that through to its conclusion," he said.

"I'll also be speaking on the repeal of the act which hopefully is going to be soon."

Mr Snooke said the new look Western Graingrowers committee would assign members portfolios to work and speak on.

This new structure is being presented to the PGA executive for approval this week.

"I appreciate that the committee has allowed me remain in this way," he said.

"I'm a diehard PGA person, I'm not going anywhere."

Mr Snooke said he was drawn to the PGA by its policies on GM and efforts to meet with lawmakers to educate them on the topic.

"I saw the way they were putting their energies into educating politicians behind the scenes on the technology," he said.

"I really liked their approach and their dedication and I thought if we're ever going to win this battle I've got to be with these people because they know what they're doing.

"I certainly agreed with what they had done in terms of the wheat industry but the GM issue really brought me on board."

The PGA has supported Mr Baxter throughout court proceedings initiated when GM canola swathes on his property allegedly blew into his neighbour's crop in 2010 which resulted in Mr Marsh's organic status being revoked.

Mr Snooke has acted as Mr Baxter's spokesman and the PGA has provided a fighting fund to pay some of the court costs.

"I really feel for Michael Baxter, given that WAFarmers in the early days let him go in a way, it found the issue very complex and hard," he said.

"I've got a very good relationship with Michael, he's a friend and I'm going to see it through.

"We have said that if we need to go and celebrate another win in Canberra we will.

"The biggest win is from a human aspect - it's obviously supporting Michael all of the way though this ordeal, but the most rewarding thing I got is watching that man on the steps of the Supreme Court have his say.

"To me it was very fulfilling and rewarding when he did nothing wrong other than grow a lawful crop.

"I'm acknowledging there's a way to go yet, but I'm proud of him."

Mr Snooke and the PGA have long disagreed with agricultural advocacy counterpart WAFarmers and have engaged in much debate on a range of topics during his time in the chair.

This has become particularly clear when the two groups address views on CBH's co-operative structure, the introduction of new competitor Bunge and the structure of the agricultural research and development (R&D) levy system in WA and across the country.

Mr Snooke said he listed playing a part in bringing Bunge to WA as a significant achievement.

"That's awesome competition and something completely different in terms of a supply chain model for the industry and I think that's really good and growers are using it more and more every day," he said.

He also lists co-operating with CBH to assist in the winding up of bulk export regulatory Wheat Exports Australia (WEA) as a milestone during his time in the chair.

"The WEA didn't do anything to help the market function but it was going to be used for purposes that it was never intended for and that was what our concern in the west was," he said.

"I think for the WA wheat and grain industry that was a huge win.

"I believe we've seen a very competitive environment in marketing, we're seeing small amounts of competition appear in the logistics sector in WA and I think that will continue.

"Ultimately everyone is going to have to sharpen their pencil to win business and that's going to be good for farmers.

"If I've played a small part in the transformation of our industry then I'm pretty happy with that."

But an area Mr Snooke admitted was unfinished business during his term and one that would remain a topic of focus, was the PGA's concern with the structure of agricultural R&D levies in Australia and particularly the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

"It's a fair point that it's an area where we haven't really got any traction," he said.

"I worry that we're not getting the productivity gains that our industry needs from the levy.

"We've certainly argued we need to put more control on where the levy is spent back in growers' hands."

Mr Snooke spoke at a senate hearing on the matter earlier this year outlining his views that growers would be better off with the levy money in their pockets and funding small scale local research initiatives.

He has also called for growers to boycott the GRDC national system and work from a State R&D grains group.

"I have to admit at the moment we have little traction on that issue and the recommendations from the senate inquiry were really poor for the industry," he said.

"There was nothing to guide the industry, it was more about setting up a database for levy growers.

"That's an area where we've tried to draw attention to the lack of productivity in the sector but probably not really had the desired result.

"We will get there.

"I think the smart farmers, the farmers that are left in the industry are scrutinising their costs and while it may take a while, I think over time we'll see more scrutiny be placed on the levy because the farmers left in the industry know best where to spend their money."

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READER COMMENTS

Deregul8
23/10/2015 6:44:27 AM, on Farm Weekly

Congratulations on the fruits of your hard earned work Mr Snooke, which we all often take for granted and also enjoy in the most profitable grain producing State in the nation. Deregulation has delivered on its promise.
Mike
23/10/2015 1:33:56 PM, on Farm Weekly

What are the chances that Snooke will run in the State Elections in 2017? Central Wheatbelt?
Farmer
24/10/2015 7:57:14 PM, on Farm Weekly

Could not think of a better candidate Mike. Brilliant idea!
whistle blower
26/10/2015 9:30:40 AM, on The Land

Such is WA grain growers enthusiasm for the PGA this organization can fit its grain growing WA members in a small caravan
Mike
26/10/2015 2:47:29 PM, on Farm Weekly

You missed the point Farmer - its pretty obvious he's on the well worn PGA/Liberal Party pathway. I wasn't supporting his candidacy, just pointing out that the timing of this announcement makes way for another one around the State election. See if i'm wrong.
argis
26/10/2015 5:06:55 PM, on The Land

Deregul8 crediting PGA for deregulation of wheat marketing is a bit like the rooster crowing at sunrise as though he caused it to rise.

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