It's all about the co-operative for Hassell

15 Jan, 2015 01:00 AM
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 East Pingelly farmer John Hassell is running for his third term as a CBH Board director.
My sole mantra is about what is good for the growers' hip pocket.
East Pingelly farmer John Hassell is running for his third term as a CBH Board director.

INCUMBENT CBH director John Hassell is welcoming the competition as he seeks re-election for his position on the board.

Mr Hassell is chasing his third term as a director in District 3 and believes he can return to being more effective in "returning value to the grower" then ever.

His experience is being pitted against former Ravensdown director and York farmer Rhys Turton in the democratic election process.

"I've been (on the board) for two terms and it takes a while to get into the system and to really learn how it performs," he said.

"There are certain goals I had when I was first elected to the CBH Board, some of which took a long time to get up and some that are only happening now.

"I feel like I've hit my straps now and am able to get results better than I've been able to in the past. If you bring someone new along it will slow that process down again."

Mr Hassell runs his East Pingelly farming operation with his wife and three children.

He also has a contract spraying business and his wife runs the local rural store.

His entry into agripolitics came as he saw the threat of CBH being corporatised from his position with WAFarmers as transport spokesman.

"I could see the mistakes they made in the Eastern States with corporatisation," he said.

"Viterra was a disaster for South Australia, and the GrainCorp move halved the value of the growers shares overnight.

"At the time they believed that corporatisation was the only way to go.

"I could see it was going to be short-term gain with long-term pain for us.

"As growers we failed AWB.

"We weren't vigilant enough on our directors to make sure they were doing their jobs properly.

"I took both of those learnings and tried to apply them to the board of CBH or the political process of CBH.

"To me it was a bit of a learning process, I stood on the platform of keeping it as a co-operative, as the member being the prime beneficiary and I continue to do that.

"Having become more involved in the CBH business now I can see that there are other things we can do to make it better and now more than ever, we need to face up to competition.

"My sole mantra is about what is good for the growers' hip pocket.

"It's important as a director you have to take notice of the whole State, but I think a lot of people in the corporate governance side of the business can't get their head around it being a co-operative, that it's a regional base and that we need to actually take notice of what's happening in our regions."

For Mr Hassell, the most pressing and potentially damaging issue for his region, and for agriculture in WA is the closure of Tier 3 rail.

"Tier 3 rail is extremely important to me," he said.

"I'm concerned if we don't get Tier 3 back that the growers in the eastern Wheatbelt will really struggle.

"From the Kulin bin meeting, we worked out that there would be $870,000 of extra freight out of Kulin alone because of no Tier 3 rail.

"All of those affected bins are in my zone. I'm concerned about them and I want to see them profitable in the future and I think it's a big threat to CBH.

"We should be fighting like hell for Tier 3 rail and it's my area and I'll fight like hell for it.

"I think it's incumbent on the government to say, alright Brookfield if you're not going to run it, give it back and let someone else have a go.

"To me they're holding the State to ransom."

An initiative Mr Hassell said he had been pushing for many years that was coming to fruition was the concept of supply chain optimisation, allowing CBH to invest in the network based on need rather than political championing.

"We're going to look at the cost from the farm gate and we've mapped out 15,000 farms," he said.

"We're going from the centre of the farm to the site and we're going to be able to make decisions based on these costs.

"This is one of their biggest issues, people were pretty unhappy about having to go buy a bigger truck for six weeks of the year, it's not very good use of capital.

"People are saying they really like the way things are going this year.

"There are a few, and justifiably so, that say they want to see the costs come down, I want to see it too, our overheads are too high."

In the future and if re-elected, Mr Hassell said the next initiative he was planning to work on involved quality optimisation for barley, similar to the existing wheat optimisation system.

He said it was projects such as this and efforts to maintain profitability as both a business and for growers that would drive him.

"A business like CBH needs to do everything it can to cut excess costs out of the system and freight and storage and handling are two fairly big costs out of our cheque book and we need to reduce that as much as possible," Mr Hassell said.

"CBH should be looking into insurance and other farm inputs to bring the costs down to the growers.

"Other countries do it really well and I really can't understand why Australia doesn't."

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READER COMMENTS

SA Farmer
15/01/2015 6:40:38 AM, on Farm Weekly

'Viterra was a disaster for South Australia' Really? The reason you don't hear many SA farmers whinging like you mob in the West is we got our equity & in many cases farmers who tend to sit on shares anyway, saw 3 takeovers until they were finally forced to give them to Glencore. I can tell you my original ABB share allocation ended up yielding our business a $2.4million payout by Glencore. A real disaster eh!
beacon boy
15/01/2015 7:08:08 AM, on Farm Weekly

the only time we here squat from these directors is when they need a vote. things have to change at CBH, they are as transparent as a foggy shower screen. where is the leadership really coming from? we don't need a harmonious board, we need a board with differed opinions to drive debate to the best options forward. above all we need clarity on how we can al get access to our equity. out here i can tel you that is all that matters
X Ag Socialist
15/01/2015 7:28:15 AM, on Farm Weekly

John, the demise of AWB/single desk enabled CBH to better serve West Australia and decoupled us from the dead weight of eastern Australia's market of last choice strangled by poor logistic socialised export , laissez-faire domestic grain handling and marketing arrangements that they used and we paid for. Its about time you and the other directors who were members of the Wheat Growers Association acknowledge this and moved forward.

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