A NUMBER of Western Australian growers have long called for a shake-up of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).
Last year WA farm consultant and Toodyay grain grower Paul McKenzie led the charge in openly criticising the GRDC by urging growers to become more aware of where levies they pay are being spent.
At the time Mr McKenzie claimed the organisation’s revenue had increased from $37 million to $177m in the last 20 years, while expenditure has virtually followed the same trend.
Largely the increased revenue has come from grower levies.
He found that in 1992 GRDC received $19m from grower levies, while that figure was $98m in 2012.
Of the recent review, Mr McKenzie said businesses had been changing to industry-owned models for a long time but “ended up with the same monkey in different pyjamas”.
“And therein lies the problem,” he said.
“You can change the logo on a shirt but the culture, practices and status quo is largely maintained despite the intentions.
“And that’s the intention of the vested interests that are involved in these sorts of organisations.”
Mr McKenzie said there was a time-honoured practice taking place when it came to the review and it was one that saw “certain organisations calling for a review when they already knew the pending outcome”.
He said what’s required, more than anything, is a change of structure but also a change of GRDC culture.
“Now more than ever broadacre grain producers need access to new ways of doing things which is a function of research and development,” Mr McKenzie said.
“Currently there’s a total lack of alignment with the returns that farmers get – and they’re the ones taking the risk and borrowing money to pay their levies.
“The outcome of the review is already written when one determines the scope of the review.”
Mr McKenzie said an industry-owned model is preferential and most of industry agrees that some compulsory contribution for science-based research is essential.
“All representatives on the board must have strong skill sets and be elected on a pro-rata basis for their contribution,” he said.
“Intellectual property should belong to shareholders, not third parties and when all this happens the GRDC will start to leave the dark ages behind.”