THREE new district one candidates are contesting this year's CBH Group member director elections for the seat at the board table vacated by Rod Madden after a total of more than 11 years.
A Morawa grain and sheep farmer, Mr Madden announced his retirement from the CBH board in September, giving members plenty of time to consider whether they should put themselves forward as a potential replacement.
The three candidates who nominated are profiled this week by Farm Weekly to help growers in district one establish who they would prefer to represent their views on the board.
District one covers the northern Wheatbelt, from Coomberdale, Miling, Pithara, Kalannie and Beacon north to Northampton, Binnu and Yuna.
Farm Weekly asked the district one candidates to answer the same six questions previously asked of districts two and four candidates.
The questions were:
1. What motivated you to nominate for the CBH Group board as a member director at this election?
2. What key qualities or experiences do you believe you can bring to the CBH Group board?
3. If elected/re-elected what, if any, changes to the corporate structure of CBH or to the way its various business units operate, will you strive to achieve in your term as a member director?
4. CBH Group's core operations business has provided consistent profits, but the marketing and trading division and some external investments have not been as consistently profitable. In your view, should CBH focus more on its traditional, profitable operations area and perhaps less on marketing and trading, external investments or any other business areas you might consider 'non-core'?
5. Western Australians are regularly told our production costs are too high, putting our commodities at a price disadvantage to competitors on international markets.
As a CBH director, how would you rationalise the grower-driven requirement to maintain an extensive network of grain delivery and storage locations offering multiple segregations, with the need to trim paddock-to-port costs?
6. Is there anything else you think CBH Group members need to know?
The district one candidates' responses are below.
CBH members in districts one, two and four should have received a ballot pack for the director elections.
They need to vote before the close of the poll at 10am on Monday, February 17.
The results will be announced following the counting of votes on that day.
For further information regarding the CBH Group member director elections contact WA Electoral Commission returning officer Phil Richards, firstname.lastname@example.org or 9214 0443.
Answer 1: You have got 10 years - that is now the average lifespan of a business and I see a great deal of discontent, a fair bit of apathy and a worrying trend of falling returns.
I am not criticising the current leadership, I just see the need to renew the governance model and set CBH up with a view to endurance.
We have to stop squabbling between ourselves, there are much bigger threats and competition out there.
Truly successful boards are strong and respectful, but also need diversity of talent which bring different perspectives and ultimately better decisions.
I totally respect the co-operative structure and what has been built up.
I am not complacent and I see the need to put something back into CBH for the good of our industry.
My motivation is only to help build the strength of the co-operative and to add value for the benefit of all members.
Answer 2: Effective boards need diversity, my skill set comes from a background in business consultancy and the ability to build businesses from scratch.
I hesitate to use the phrase 'entrepreneurial spirit' as it has an arrogance about it and perhaps a risk appetite that is extreme.
That said, how many current farm directors can truly say they started with nothing?
There is plenty of work out there that identifies the benefits of having this viewpoint represented within the board.
I bring a solid understanding of accounts and ability to really interpret financials and the meaning of them.
The only paid employment I ever had was doing this and explaining it to interested parties.
After that it was all down to building my own businesses.
It is a skill that is vital to have represented in the boardroom.
I do like to try and look at things in an alternative way, open debate, independent mindset and the willingness to question and challenge respectfully.
One final quality is trust and in this day and age it is so undervalued.
You cannot expect it from everyone but it really needs to be built from the top down in any organisation.
Answer 3: To be unequivocal, I support the co-operative model.
The disconnect, the minefield of opinions, the lack of clarity that appears to dog CBH comes simply from the reality that farmer members get their value from the service provision of the co-op.
It is all to do with patronage benefits.
While the structure is as it is, members want good service benefits and will lack commitment for significant capital investment.
Step beyond this and invest in activities that are not immediate or obvious service provisions and the issue of poorly defined property rights will always be there.
Adequately defined and enforced ownership rights protected under contract and linked to the patronage through the co-op would give much more clarity.
I have significant concerns surrounding the current losses.
Why and what governance structures were and are now in place to prevent this happening in the future?
From the outside it is difficult to see what has changed - I simply do not know and as a priority I would review this.
The trend is there, there needs to be clarity accountability and understanding.
Answer 4: This goes to the need for a proper vision and strategy for CBH to take the business and its membership forward.
I suspect that while Operations has shown good financial results in the recent past, the 2019 harvest will change this for the worst.
This will bring more pressure and, sadly, recriminations.
Vision and strategy is so important and such a core responsibility of the board to establish - get this clear and the executive will have a much better chance of making the right decisions.
The values we have to be mindful of are that first and foremost CBH is a service provider and this will be what it is judged on, the other businesses in the portfolio are there and need to be managed well.
Marketing and Trading is a risky business, there are conflicts and indeed confusion between what is commercial and what is co-operative.
A significant activity of CBH is getting grain to market and this has implications too.
We need good competition in the market and by definition not all members market their grain through CBH.
Answer 5: There is a balance in everything and inevitably a commercial reality which means streamlining costs and reducing services pushes expenses back on the individual grower.
The principal of every grower being equal is at the bedrock of any co-operative and this is where fairness, equity and trust becomes significant.
There will always be a balance between the ideal and what is a commercially sensible compromise.
I have spoken before about building CBH into the most trusted brand, I believe if everyone can see that there is a benefit to them and that the bigger challenges lie beyond the immediate then we will move the dialogue along.
I am a firm believer in the fact that farmers are first rate at knowing what needs to happen locally on a practical level to achieve the best outcome.
There needs to be active listening in both directions - let's build good relationships.
Answer 6: A large part of a business' capital are its staff - we have lost too many good people.
We have just got to be genuine, call it as it is, rebuild the culture and see it everywhere.
My assessment is that we need some brave people.
There is a lot of work to do and I wish the new board every good fortune in what is a competitive world.
Businesses that survive reinvent themselves.
Answer 1: My family has produced grain and sheep in the Miling district for four generations.
I have worked in partnership with my brothers on the farm for 35 years and bring a wealth of experience in transport and storage of grain in the Wheatbelt.
If elected to the board I will have the time and enthusiasm to make a valuable contribution for grower members.
I have been encouraged to nominate by retiring and current board members.
I firmly believe CBH needs to remain globally competitive and attractive to the majority of growers to retain the power, efficiency and options afforded in volume of commodity.
I want to investigate the most effective options for storage and transport of grain for growers and believe this includes looking at our social license to use transport routes and mechanisms to utilise modern technologies to increase efficiencies.
I would develop clear communication with all stakeholders, including growers, local governments and service providers.
I understand the benefits of controlling the whole supply chain and the opportunity CBH's overseas milling investments could bring.
I would like the board to continue to evaluate investment risks and benefits with open consultation with its grower members.
Answer 2: I would bring to the board experience in grain production, an extensive knowledge of current transport systems and their limitations, a record of good governance, integrity and fairness.
I have an ability to listen to growers and work as an influential and collaborative team member.
I would bring a desire for continual improvement through research and consultation, I have a sound background in working collaboratively as part of a team.
For the past seven years I have been an active councillor for the Shire of Moora and am in my fifth year as president.
I am a member of the Local Government Agricultural Freight Group, currently as president, demonstrating my interest and knowledge in working with government to optimise effective freight for grain to storage and to port and my ability to implement strategic decisions through good leadership.
I have an understanding of grain farming systems in the whole district and the different requirements of each aspect of CBH to growers throughout district one.
Answer 3: The CBH co-operative model is sound and, most importantly, it is vital to maintain grower control.
I will continue to look at the most beneficial way to run a co-operative the size of CBH.
I am keen to maintain a co-operative that returns profits to growers members and to investigate the current diversified investments undertaken by CBH.
I would strive to achieve better communication and consultation between the board, growers and staff.
If corporatising CBH came under consideration again I would want to ensure communication with growers was clear and consultative.
Answer 4: I believe that the core business of CBH in storage and handling of grain is the area where CBH has the expertise and provides the best service to the grower.
It is important CBH continues to maintain and modernise its facilities to increase efficiencies.
I am willing to work within the board to evaluate and determine the best way to manage other investments, including the overseas mills and the Eastern States' investments.
Answer 5: A co-operative like CBH must always strive to contain costs.
I would like to help CBH to continue to improve transport arrangements for grain to receival and port.
I believe CBH needs to continue to work with government to improve rail and road transport for the future, recognising the long term cost benefit for rail transport is always significantly better than road.
It is important not to transfer the cost of transport to growers, as this comes with financial and social cost to growers and communities.
I believe CBH can continue to adopt modern technologies to improve efficiencies and reduce cost of grain receival and handling.
Answer 6: It is important to understand the history of CBH and to appreciate how far the co-operative has evolved and improved over the past 30 to 40 years.
Strong leadership, modern technology and efficient infrastructure will only enhance CBH's ability to return value to growers.
Answer 1: I nominated for the CBH board as I am a strong advocate of CBH's purpose to sustainably create and deliver value to Western Australian grain growers.
A willingness to be a part of a beneficial legacy for future farming generations is also motivation.
My interest in CBH was sparked seven years ago when the co-op was challenged to corporatise.
This made me appreciate the value the co-operative brings to our farm business, community and grains industry.
Since then, I have closely followed the performance of CBH.
Answer 2: I am an emerging director with established governance skills and recognised leadership qualities.
I would be a diverse voice to the co-operative and would work hard to represent grain growers' interests and contribute to CBH's greater good.
I consider myself as being authentic and emphatic, an active listener who is attentive to detail, speaks honestly, offers constructive diplomatic feedback and values working in a team.
I enjoy working with people and applying my solid communication, facilitation and collaboration skills to achieve results with varied stakeholders.
I am committed to personal and professional learning and have completed the Executive Leadership Program in Co-operatives and Mutuals (2019), am a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (2012) and a graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership Program (2018).
My current appointments, along with being a director of Agnire Farming Co, include Racing and Wagering Western Australia board member, Shire of Chapman Valley vice president and councillor, CBH GAC member, CWA vice president and Yuna Tennis Club secretary/treasurer.
I have had extensive previous appointments over 17 years in local government, regional development, grain grower groups and volunteer community clubs and committees.
These appointments have strengthened my strategic thinking while mentoring me with the required acumen to meet change.
Answer 3: In my mind the co-operative is in its sharpest transformative era.
Challenges have propelled executive, board and members into testing conversations.
It has led to significant change in policy and procedures and strengthened CBH.
Any transformation can be disruptive and I feel it is timely to review co-op culture.
I am a firm believer in the co-operative model, however the corporatisation debate is not disappearing.
The future fit-for-purpose operating business model will need the support of members and any decision would require a rigorous review and feasibility assessment and extensive consultation if or when that transpires.
If elected I hope to:
Continue to drive member value, optimising profit for purpose,
Be engaged with members and stakeholders and openly commutate the opportunities and challenges ahead to ensure a prosperous legacy can be achieved for grain growers,
Revitalise co-op culture to the trusted global co-operative brand CBH is known for,
Look closely at business units and investments and their aligned strategies,
Collectively evaluate the implementation of strategy against performance measures to see if they are appropriate to future challenges and opportunities,
Support ongoing work of the executive and board to achieve a positive operational and financial performance of all business units.
Knowingly, change occurs when people work together through shared vision, abilities and motivations.
This requires leadership as well as governance and all directors have a collective responsibility for decisions, not just one.
By being a leader you can be an influencer.
Answer 4: Storage and handling ought to remain the focus of the co-op.
It is a proven performer and asset for WA grain growers.
Marketing and Trading adds competition to a deregulated Australian grain market and competition is important in a commercial realm.
Consideration to the competitive value will need assessing to ensure any sustained losses can be arrested and measures are aligning with members' expectations.
A level of detail about realising any change in profit/loss is important and any policies are reviewed and amended to reflect learning from past lapses in performance.
Investments can be a positive diversification to any business, the question is how much and what type?
I consider investments by CBH as significant business opportunities if they align with the purpose of returning value to WA grain growers.
The investment portfolio of CBH I suspect is informed by the co-op's risk appetite and risk strategy.
Striking a balance between negative concerns and dealing with prolific optimism should inform this risk.
As a potential new director, a steep learning is required to be across these risk dynamics.
I anticipate a comprehensive risk management framework and investment strategy would become available if elected which would inform future decisions around any current or new investments.
Answer 5: The network strategy has been pivotal in shaping current storage and handling assets.
Any further rationalisation I believe would need to come from a comprehensive review and consultation process.
Bin to port logistics continue to be debatable.
Further understanding the agreements with Arc Infrastructure as a result of arbitration would be helpful in determining the future of grain on rail versus grain on road.
Community and environmental concerns demand respect in the debate, as well as the cost comparatives.
I believe improvements in technology to advance efficiencies in CBH and grower operations have been and are positively influencing profitability.
I am interested in the next phase of technological evolution for the co-op.
Answer 6: I will take the time to listen, observe and read to get an appreciation for the depth and breadth of CBH.
I will look at how things are currently being done and start to make suggestions about some things if change is necessary, as a director, sometimes you have to be prepared to rock the boat.
I will constantly ask questions because saying yes without exploring uncertainties is perilous.
I will insist on the board and management to get out more to understand the grower and build relations because, at the end of the day, it is the growers who own CBH and that should never be overlooked.