THERE has recently been public discussion on the Agricultural Produce Commission (APC) and APC producers' committees.
The commission believes it is important to the ongoing and informed debate that growers have a clear understanding of how the APC works.
The APC is a WA statutory authority and operates under its own legislation (Agricultural Produce Commission Act 1988).
The commission's primary job is to establish producers' committees, in response to an industry request, so that self-determined funds can be collected to provide services required by the producers in an industry.
Before establishing a committee there is an intensive consultation period with the members of the industry.
This allows an informed decision to be made as to whether the producers are, in the main, supportive of proceeding with a poll.
The formal poll, conducted according to specific legislated requirements, then allows every producer in that industry to have their say on the question of establishing a committee.
The poll process includes the requirement that the commission notifies the producers of the intention to poll, and that opportunity has been provided to producers to give feedback.
When considering establishing a committee, the commission's view is that it would not establish a committee would harm or disrupt an industry.
Enabling producers to work together for common goals is the primary objective of a committee.
The decision to establish, or not establish, a committee is made by the commission, based on the outcome of the poll which also determines the functions or services the committee can provide.
Committees can be established in relation to any agricultural produce (except broadacre cropping and grazing industries) of a particular kind or variety in the entire State, or, for a part of the State only, or for different kinds or classes or varieties of agricultural produce or to achieve specified objects for any agricultural produce.
Committees can also be prescribed, such as the APC Pork Committee.
The members appointed to a committee must be producers in that industry.
Appointments to committees are made by the commission.
The role of the committee is to decide what needs to be done, and then how much it will cost to do that work.
The committee then determines the fee charged to each grower to fund the service provision.
The committee provides a recommendation to the commission on the charge for any year.
This means that the charge can change each year, with either an increase or decrease depending on activities for that year.
It can also be a recommendation to suspend the charge altogether, as was done for the avocado committee in recent years.
The services which can be provided vary and can include promotion, education, research and development and biosecurity.
These can be provided in any number of ways, including through an industry association.
It is sometimes believed that this is 'funding' an association.
This is not a function of an APC committee.
Where an association receives funding from an APC committee it does so under contract for the association to provide specific services to that industry.
So, if the association is the best qualified to carry out or manage the promotion for that particular industry - funds are provided by the APC committee for that service.
The association could do many other actions that are not APC related.
For this they would need to have funding from some other source.
Broadacre cropping and grazing industries are currently not able to establish committees under the APC Act.
Should this change, it does not mean the automatic establishment of any committee, it just means that, if the industry supported doing so and the formal polling process provided evidence of that support, then a committee could be established.
But, only if the full consultation and polling process had been completed and it was found that the members of the industry were in support of the establishment of a committee.
The commission is currently seeking, amongst other amendments to the act, to have the options of weighted voting (so dependant of the size of production) and opt-out provisions available under the act should these ever be a consideration for an industry when establishing a committee.
The commission, in establishing and governing producers' committees, is focussed on growers remaining in control of their funds and services, with the ultimate goal of improving the profitability and sustainability of producers as well as their industries.
The first APC committee was established nearly 30 years ago, and there are currently 10 active committees, servicing 13 different agricultural and prescribed industries.
APC committees allow producers, and therefore their industries, to plan for the future and to respond to the present with a sense of unity and purpose.
The members of the APC committees do valuable work, most putting in many unnoticed hours on behalf of their growers and producers.
These APC committees are a testament to the leadership, foresight, courage and commitment of WA producers, growers and beekeepers.