Stead steps up to key CBH position

Stead steps up to key CBH position


Grains
Esperance farmer Simon Stead is the new CBH Board deputy chairman after being appointed to the position last Friday.

Esperance farmer Simon Stead is the new CBH Board deputy chairman after being appointed to the position last Friday.

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Esperance farmer Simon Stead has been appointed as the new deputy chairman of CBH.

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ESPERANCE farmer Simon Stead has been appointed as the new deputy chairman of CBH.

The CBH Group announced last Friday that Mr Stead will take on the role immediately after former deputy chairman, Vern Dempster decided not to renominate for the position.

Mr Dempster had been in the role from April 2013 to April 2014 and was again reappointed to the position in August 2014.

He will remain on the board as one of two member-elected directors for District 2.

Mr Stead has been a member of the CBH Board since 2015, when he was elected to replace former chairman Neil Wandel when Mr Wandel chose not to run for another term.

Mr Stead is the CBH-appointed representative on the Co-operatives WA Council and is also a member of the Industry Advisory Board of the UWA Institute of Agriculture and a graduate member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

He said the deputy chairman position was voted upon each year and with Mr Dempster deciding not to nominate, he put his name forward.

"I am really thrilled, I have been on the board for four years now and am grateful for the support of the rest of the directors and look forward to working in this new capacity," Mr Stead said.

Mr Stead farms as part of a family farming operation with his wife Sue, his brother Jonathan and his wife Susie and their parents Bob and Dawn.

"We run a 6000 hectare cropping program, split between wheat, barley and canola, and mate 6000 Merino ewes and run 700 breeding cows - so it is a true mixed farming enterprise," he said.

Mr Stead said he had always been passionate about the role CBH played in the WA grain industry and being a director had given him an even greater appreciation of the co-operative.

"Since I came back to the farm and we increased our cropping area, I have realised the value of CBH to our industry," he said.

"When that first proposal to corporatise CBH came in the early 2000s, I was a little nervous about it and was pretty happy when it got put to bed.

"Various people have always pushed pretty hard for that notion that we can have our cake and eat it too, but after my few years on the board I have learnt more about the co-op and the value of it and I think it would take a lot of advantage away from farmers if it was in a different structure."

Winning a seat on the board in his late 40s, Mr Stead said it was probably something he thought he might do later in his life but perhaps not at that point in time.

He said a discussion with Mr Wandel changed his view on that and he was encouraged by that conversation to run for a seat in 2015.

"When Neil announced he wasn't going to run again I had some discussions with him and he strongly encouraged me not to leave it until later in life," he said.

"He believed the board needed some younger farmers on it and so I put my name forward and I am glad I did.

"I thoroughly enjoy it and I am really engaged in our family farming operation and really engaged with CBH and it is a good time to be involved.

"It was a steep learning curve when I first went on the board, CBH is a complex business and it has great employees that are highly engaged and motivated and doing a great job for WA growers."

Mr Stead said the board was strongly focused on ensuring the network was set up for the foreseeable future and in the state it needs to be and how growers need it to be.

"The focus is on the grower and while part of the network strategy that often comes under question is the rationalisation of sites but that is being balanced with the need for service and what growers are going to be prepared to pay for that service," he said.

"So it is always a balancing act.

"There is great alignment now with how we are following that strategy.

"(CBH chief executive) Jimmy Wilson is a fresh pair of eyes on the business and he is great with logistics and has a lot of network experience, albeit in a different industry, and sometimes that fresh pair of eyes can be a real shot in the arm.

"The board is working well together and there is a level of trust and maturity as a group."

Mr Stead said the growers he represented in his area seemed satisfied with the service level they were receiving from CBH.

"There are always improvements that can be made and I am not blind to those and there is still a push to improve turnaround times at sites," he said.

"Esperance is lucky in a way that it was built in an era that it is a bit more fit for purpose and it has already had its rationalisation."

Mr Stead said there was a move to growing more niche crops in areas such as Esperance as growers looked to improve their cropping systems.

"There is a big push on lentils at the moment in Esperance and growers are really keen for CBH to be involved in storing and handling those and marketing them as well," he said.

"That can be a difficult proposition when it is a niche commodity, but I think the co-operative has to show a level of support to help that niche become more widely used so growers can look after protein levels in wheat and improve yields.

"Growers are pushing down the road to solve the problem of diminishing protein levels in wheat and barley and one of the solutions is growing a profitable legume."

In terms of the WA grain industry's performance in a global market, Mr Stead said, as a grain grower, that while he was confident on the outlook, he strongly believed in the importance of keeping the industry internationally competitive.

"There is no doubt that the east coast drought has been a sugar hit for WA growers and that may have some longer term ramifications in terms of making it difficult to supply traditional markets such as South East Asia," he said.

"Price increases for certain grains has seen them turn to other sources and that makes me a little nervous.

"We have to concentrate some attention onto those important markets that take a lot of grain from us every year and ensure we look after them going forward.

"Overall not too many growers will knock back the prices they received last year, and I think there has been a huge amount of debt taken off farmers' balance sheets and investment in WA farming from last season.

"We just have to be mindful of the longer term ramifications if some of the other nations get wheat into some of our markets and they become well adapted to this other wheat, which I believe is of a lower and different quality to WA wheat.

"But if the market adapts to these other wheats quickly, we will have to work hard to get that back again."

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