CBH grower survey results announced

CBH grower survey results announced


Agribusiness
CBH chairman Wally Newman said the results from the grower survey conducted this year show strong support for CBH to remain a co-operative.

CBH chairman Wally Newman said the results from the grower survey conducted this year show strong support for CBH to remain a co-operative.

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CBH will not move to a distributing co-operative or listed company, instead retaining its non-distributive co-operative model.

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CBH will not move to a distributing co-operative or listed company, instead retaining its non-distributive co-operative model.

The board unanimously resolved to maintain the current structure following strong grower support in the most detailed survey in the co-operative's 83-year history, with 2600 growers from its 4200 membership base participating.

CBH chairman Wally Newman told the Farm Weekly on Friday that the results were "better than expected".

"You have a gut feel for this type of thing and when eight out of 10 growers are strong supporters of the co-op it's a really good indicator," he said.

"A bad result would have been 30pc on each structure and we wouldn't know where to go but this gives the board really clear direction on where to go and gives us a mandate to act on what has been suggested."

The survey indicated that 14pc of growers supported external parties investing in storage and handling and only 12pc supported a publicly listed structure for CBH.

CBH chief executive officer Andy Crane said the survey reflected growers of all ages, farm sizes and zones.

"We asked every grower to respond and we've had the biggest response we've ever had - the data is so strong and regardless of zone or tonnage these numbers are truly representative of the broader community," Dr Crane said.

"Where people would normally typify growers from a certain area or age group as preferring one model or another we've seen that completely blur and change.

"Big growers support the co-op because it does a service for them, smaller growers believe it supports them in their role and younger growers with no historic connection to the co-operative see it as an important part of their business."

However, growers wanted to see enhancements to the non-distributing co-operative model to increase returns to growers through rebates.

"It is very clear that members are happy with the system which is why they give it such big support," Mr Newman said.

"But our rebates may be able to be used to give them some sort of recognition in our investments and cater for those that supported a trading co-op.

"If we can push some of those benefits that you would get under a trading co-op and reflect that in the current model it's going to accommodate them better."

As part of the $3 million review the board also looked at the co-operative's governance, which showed an appetite for change to its diversity and skills.

"CBH already encourages diversity through the grower advisory, not only for gender but for age, size of farm and geographic location, however this year during the director elections we are encouraging members to be more discerning on who they vote for," Mr Newman said.

WAFarmers grains section president Duncan Young welcomed the results.

"There's nothing surprising in there - while there are not any clear-cut recommendations on governance, some things have been highlighted that can be done without requiring a vote," he said.

However Pastoralists and Graziers Association Western Grain Growers committee chairman Gary McGill was critical of the results and process taken during the survey which led to pre-determined support to remain as a co-operative.

"The questions were designed to produce a certain outcome and it is disgraceful that this is being lauded as support for the co-operative," he said.

"The board have remained ideologically committed to the co-operative model regardless of the facts and information before them.

"The true test of support for the co-operative would have been for the full Australian Grains Champion (AGC) proposal to be put to a grower vote.

"While the AGC proposal was formidable and audacious, the business elements were incontestable and the board knew that, which is why they felt the need for this classic, time-honoured technique of town hall meetings and surveys with questions constructed to achieve their preferred results, which is to remain a co-operative."

AGC director Brad Jones said there was "scant" detail in the results of the survey.

AGC withdrew its proposal to commercialise CBH in September after its proposal was rejected by the CBH board in March this year.

At the time, Mr Jones said the $600m-plus shares proposal, which has been backed in part by GrainCorp, had forced CBH to review its structure and governance and save growers $400m in network rationalisation charges.

"The (survey) results are what the board wanted to happen, so as far as I can tell that's it and it is time to move on," Mr Jones said.

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