AFTER the resignation of Wally Newman and the removal of Trevor Badger from the CBH Group board, District Four was left without any representation.
District four covers the southern Wheatbelt and western section of the Great Southern, from Darkan, Wagin, Lake Grace and Newdegate in the north to Albany in the south.
A by-election is being held to fill one of the vacant seats, with six growers throwing their hat into the ring to be elected for one term, until February 2022.
When the initial district four election was held earlier this year, only two candidates entered the race, meaning the number of growers putting their hand up to join the co-operative has tripled in just six months.
Ballot packs containing full voting information have been mailed to eligible grower members residing in District 4, with votes needing to be submitted prior to the close of the poll at 10am on August 7.
Farm Weekly profiled the six candidates and asked each of them to answer the same questions.
Those 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, 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 candidates responses are below.
Bill Bailey - Jerramungup
Answer 1: I have shared concerns with many grower members across all the Albany Port Zone over the events and need for this unexpected by-election in District Four over recent weeks.
Having served a three-year term on the CBH Grower Advisory Group for this district, representing growers, and also attending many past CBH AGMs, district and local meetings and CBH courses, I have developed a passion for wanting to see CBH thrive into the future. As WA grain growers, CBH business is our business.
Answer 2: I would bring a range of experience, skills and some diversity to the CBH group board.
I began farming as a share farmer in 1984 at Jerramungup, while running a large contract shearing business, cropping a relatively small area.
I now lease larger corporate farms as well as cropping my own farms and run commercial Merino sheep.
I was affected by local bin closures and now mostly deliver to Ongerup, Gairdner and Borden receival points.
The closure of smaller bins and the effects it had then, initially prompted my interest in becoming active in CBH meetings and matters.
I cropped properties adjacent to closed bin sites and those CBH decisions affected our business a lot.
I have 16 years of local government experience, attended many governance courses as well as having completed the Australian Institute of Management Executive Leadership Program, Co-operatives and Mutuals.
Answer 3: I want to ensure that the values and principles of a co-operative are upheld to make sure that the needs of all grain growers, regardless of the size of their operation, are met.
CBH grower members should be served well into the future if the core purpose of CBH - to sustainably create and return value to growers always remains the key priority.
CBH directors need to be grower focused and accountable and I believe I can provide this and a strong voice with honest, open, transparent, respectful and collaborative board representation across District four.
Answer 4: CBH needs to be grower focused but also in an increasingly international marketplace run as a global business, a world-leading co-operative.
International investments and acquisitions, over time, have changed and growers currently do not have all the information that the CBH management and board members have, to make fully informed comments on questions such as this though.
Having said that, I have received excellent CBH service from 'non-core' CBH operations. Pricing and products from the CBH marketing and trading division has certainly benefited our business and I utilise CBH Pre-Pay Advantage.
On all accounts, it was a particularly tough grain marketing season last year and some other marketers withdrew.
CBH remained in the market, keeping a floor in prices but suffered a marketing and trading loss, along with other grain traders - an unusual event.
Answer 5: CBH needs to continue being the market-leading grain handler in WA by providing cost-efficient, reliable and strategically based receival, storage and handling facilities with road and rail freight efficiencies across the network.
Technological and automation advancements need to be sustainably implemented.
The optimisation process needs to ensure fair and equitable returns to growers to reward them for their own produce.
The CBH board has the task of ensuring that our co-operative remains strong, financially sound, well managed and contributes to WA farming profitability in increasingly competitive markets, well into the future - for the next generation of WA grain growers.
Growers themselves, I believe, have the capacity to work collaboratively and with CBH staff to reduce the number of segregation required at receival sites.
Local growers and grower groups deciding to plant the optimum, mutually decided and best suited grain varieties for their area and receival point capabilities, to reduce the number of segregations and optimise CBH bin space, would mutually benefit all.
Answer 6: Please vote in this election, have your say.
It will be interesting to see the outcome of the recently announced CBH governance review and future structure of the CBH board recommendations.
Most growers I have spoken to are concerned that local issues such as moisture issues on the South Coast area need experienced local knowledge and board representation.
Other districts and areas have their own and differing, specific issues such as Tier 3 rail.
Shane Carruthers - Lake Grace
Answer 1: This will be my third nomination for the board and I have been continually encouraged by growers in District 4 to again put myself up for election to the board.
After the resignation of Wally Newman, I offered to fill that position as a casual vacancy at no cost to the growers until the next election so the growers in district four would still have representation at board level and demonstrate my commitment to our co-op.
Answer 2: The growers and the current board have stated they want the focus on the 'core business'.
Growers have indicated to me that the experience I have gained at a ground level would be beneficial as a director and may be helpful to fellow board members during discussions and decision making on how and where we invest growers' money in the network.
Answer 3: I attended all seven of the recent grower meetings held in District Four and many growers didn't feel the need for change.
The amount of money that has been spent on consultants and professional fees over the past three years is staggering and it's time to get on with managing the business for the growers.
I do however personally believe in fixed terms for directors in line with a structured succession plan.
Answer 4: Like I have stated many times, the focus needs to be on the start of the supply chain and decreasing growers' costs.
In the current economic environment, and coming off a loss position, we just need to consolidate our current business.
Like all businesses when things are tight, we need to cut costs wherever possible.
Some of the other business units are at times very complex, volatile and difficult to manage.
Answer 5: One of the ideas I have is a plan that could 'utilise' these sites rather than rationalise.
'Franchising' the storages in the network that are destined to be scrapped at the grower's cost could be very beneficial to growers/grower groups or individuals.
These storages were built by the growers for the growers and that opportunity should be offered to the growers.
The majority of these sites are still fit-for-purpose with machinery just sitting idle and could be utilised.
This would create an income for CBH rather than a cost to growers for decommissioning.
Answer 6: We have new leadership and there will be three new directors on the board.
I seek your vote to be one of those directors and commit to being a valued and committed director on your board working for all growers.
Scott Crosby - Nyabing
Answer 1: My motivation to nominate is to make a difference.
I am 100 per cent committed to everything in my industry, and at 43 years old, and at the height of my farming career, I am the perfect age to make a significant difference.
I also believe, CBH is an especially important component to any crop growing business and I am committed to continuing to improve this important asset, always striving to do better.
Answer 2: I am currently the elected president of the Shire of Kent, and have been a councillor for the past five years.
I am also one of the youngest shire presidents to serve for our council.
I feel this position has provided me with the skills of good leadership, governance, and guidance to my community.
I am a passionate and progressive member of my industry and community.
I have served and volunteered my time on countless committees and have enjoyed coaching our local kids the skills of football and cricket.
I have represented my growing area on the Grains Council of WAFF, and I was a part of building our local Community Hub, a $2.5 million community initiative.
I am currently the captain of the Boongadoo Bushfire Brigade and was also president of the Nyabing Progress Association for many years.
In my earlier 20s, I was the secretary of our local football club and led a senior team to a premiership win.
My favourite time of the year is volunteering and contributing to the planting and harvesting of our community crop - it incorporates both of my passions; farming and community.
Answer 3: I am fully committed to ensuring CBH remains as a co-operative and fully oppose corporatisation.
To me, the greatest honour will be the ability to maintain, grow and pass the farming legacy built by me and my forebearers, onto my children and future generations.
Answer 4: CBH should be fully focused on returning value to members, we are a co-operative, not a corporate business.
The most important purpose of the model should remain on storage and handling, and returning this value to members.
Investing too much time and money in outside business interests detracts from the main purpose of CBH.
All areas of the co-operative should be transparent to members, with a full explanation of profit and loss figures for every venture.
Unadulterated explanations should be explicitly revealed to members for their evaluation and input.
Answer 5: Any business, no matter what its structure, should always strive to do things better and more efficient.
Some excellent improvement has been made over the past few years however, there is always scope to improve.
I support the rationalisation of bin location, but this cannot be completed until all services are available, faster and more efficient.
It's also about the efficiency and costs from the paddock, not just the site for growers.
Answer 6: At 43 years old, I am at the peak of my farming career.
I am up to date with markets, technology, finances, and farming practises.
I feel it is my generation that should be making the decisions on the current and future direction of CBH.
This industry is our future, not the future of someone close to retirement.
I am an honest and hard-working person who is willing to work in a team.
I guarantee to engage cohesively with both the administration, fellow directors and shareholders of CBH, in an attempt to succeed in achieving the best outcomes for members.
I will ensure to be prepared and fully informed of all matters as a director, and always willing to ask questions if unsure.
Finally, help me make a difference for you.
Help me ensure that this amazing asset which is worth far more than money, continues to be a lasting legacy both now, and into the future.
I promise to represent you, and your future with youth, knowledge and passion.
Together we can make CBH great.
Phillip O'Meehan - Borden
Answer 1: As a farmer for 40 years, CBH has been an integral part of my life for the same duration.
I am a great believer in the benefits of the co-operative to all growers in this State.
I have the time and energy to contribute positively to the organisation and move it forward.
Answer 2: I have a long history of community involvement as well as working with other family members in the farming business.
I had five years on the Hale School board which gave me an insight to what is required for a board to function with sound governance and in a productive manner.
My focus has always been on getting the best result for the stakeholders in a cordial, constructive and respectful manner.
Answer 3: While a co-operative structure does not satisfy all the people all the time, the alternative of a corporate structure has no upside for growers who are planning on staying in the industry for a generation or more.
I would be very wary of changing the structure of the various businesses.
This could lead to division between members and be detrimental to the organisation.
Each business should complement CBH's core business and all growers should benefit.
Answer 4: The core business should always be the prime focus.
The external investments should be treated individually and not as a collective.
For example, the marketing and trading division is essential for the members.
CBH accumulates nearly half the State's crop and gives us an avenue to market our grain every business day.
If the marketing division were not there it would result in a lot less competition for our product.
With the other investments, they all should have set timeframes on when they are reviewed, and appropriate action taken if it is not a benefit to the group as a whole.
I am not against making other investments if it complements the core business.
Diversity gives CBH the opportunity to add value to the business now and into the future.
Answer 5: There will always be a compromise between services and storage and handling pricing which will continue to evolve over time.
Markets will change as we have seen just recently, so CBH needs to be as flexible with what services they offer to meet the market as well as having a low-cost handling service as a focus.
Answer 6: I feel I have a collaborative approach to decision making, strong financial skills, and a desire to help build on the great work that CBH has done over nearly 90 years.
The fact that six growers have put their hand up is a great thing for the co-operative as the stronger the leadership is, the stronger the company will be.
Royce Taylor - Lake Grace
Answer 1: CBH's reputation has taken a bit of a battering in recent times, with some unease in the boardroom and negative financial results.
I believe this can be turned around, with new leadership and fresh ideas from a re-energised board.
I will add stability, help improve the culture as a team player, and allow CBH members to be proud of their co-op again.
I have structured my own business with good employees and am now in a position to be able to dedicate my time and effort to both my business and to CBH.
I would take this position very seriously. I will always be prepared to listen to growers' concerns and will add a strong voice in the boardroom in representing our region.
Answer 2: I have extensive business management skills and for 11 years, served as a councillor with the Shire of Lake Grace.
I am well-equipped to represent growers on the board, having successfully completed the Company Directors' Course with the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Co-operatives and Mutuals Strategic Development Program with the Australian Institute of Management.
Farming is in my blood. I grew up on a local farm, before studying agriculture and working across various levels of the industry.
I recently completed a term on the CBH Growers Advisory Council, as deputy chairman.
I am an active member of our community, providing support to many local groups and volunteering in numerous roles.
I was honoured to be awarded the Lake Grace 'Citizen of the Year' title in 2014, recognising my ongoing contribution to the local community.
Answer 3: Now that the network strategy is in full swing, the cost of providing the service to growers needs attention.
I will advocate for continual updates and adjustment, as seasonal conditions affect what can be delivered.
With many sites being closed and some growers having to cart increased distances, pricing needs to be considered.
I believe any grower who has to cart more than 60km from their nearest service, should be recognised, as the level of service they receive may be significantly less than other growers.
Tier 3 rail lines are still a hot topic and I will work hard to get rail back in motion, to make our roads safer and keep transport costs down.
Until we can get more grain on rail, our State's roads will continue to deteriorate and cause concern.
A cost benefit analysis must happen, to realise the amount of damage the unnecessary truck movements are having on our roads, versus reinstating rail.
It is not acceptable for our communities to be travelling on unsafe roads and sharing.
Investments by CBH have taken a lot of focus off the main operations of our co-op.
Storage and handling in particular, must continue to receive the greatest level of attention.
If investments are deemed necessary, then CBH must have a controlling share - it's the only way to go.
The Interflour Group investment, for example, needs major assessment and an appropriate decision must be made.
Answer 4: Storage and handling has been, and will always be, the key area of the CBH business.
If elected, the majority of my efforts will be put into this area.
I am not opposed to investments, and it is great that value is being added to our commodities.
However, the time and effort spent in this area needs to be directly proportional when compared with the rest of the business, both in terms of value and profitability.
If an investment is to be made, the controlling share must be owned by CBH, in order to provide the appropriate level of flexibility when managing the investment.
Marketing and trading is a tricky business, and tighter controls have now been put in place so losses like the last financial year cannot occur again.
The KPIs in this area must be continually scrutinised and guidelines adjusted to suit the risk appetite of members.
It's important to remember that when a loss is made by a marketer of grain, the seller receives a better price than they would have if the marketer was to make a profit.
Answer 5: With an ever-competitive global trading platform, pressure will always be applied to CBH to be as efficient as possible in coming up with new ideas to minimise production line costs.
The network strategy is addressing this to a certain extent and improvements will have to be made continually.
Paddock Planner and the CDF App have helped increase efficiency, and with more automation at receival sites, these efficiencies can continue.
With better planning and increased capacity at many sites, not having to transfer grain within the network should reduce costs as well.
Answer 6: CBH is such a vital part of our regional community and our economy, and I would like to encourage all growers to exercise their right to vote in this important election.
I urge growers to choose the candidate who they think is the right fit -someone who can make a genuine difference in representing our district.
I want to see CBH return to be something we are truly proud of and I will work hard on behalf of all growers, so our co-op is a successful entity we can call our own.
I am ready and able to help guide CBH to a progressive and bright future.
Helen Woodhams - Kojonup
Answer 1: Grain is a major part of our livelihood and CBH plays a vital part in that.
The co-operative is a significant contributor to farm businesses and communities.
It is a large employer and provides substantial value to our economy.
I am seeking to increase my commitment to a director level at CBH to enhance improvements and work for grower benefits, within a business I regard as integral to the regions and our grain industry.
Currently I am the deputy chairwoman of the CBH Growers' Advisory Council (GAC) and this role has strengthened my aspirations of becoming a CBH director.
I have received encouragement from growers, the GAC and from current and past board members to nominate.
All parties have indicated that they require directors with experience, financial acumen, and education.
I feel I can offer those things and would add value to the board.
Answer 2: Education: B Ed- Business Major, Dip Financial Counselling-assisting primary producers to re-focus, restructure or exit with equity, banking and legal systems exposure and being a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Industry and lived experience: Originally from an Esperance farming family, was a CBH harvest casual throughout university and have been farming for 27 years with husband Glenn (Kojonup/ Woodanilling).
Decision making and strategic thinking: Business experience and performance. Open mindedness, the energy and preparedness to debate and question without prejudice.
Interpersonal skills: Experienced in working and collaborating with people, a proven facilitator with community roles experience.
Board ready: CBH Growers Advisory Council, Grower representative, backgrounding and insight into CBH, as well as other board experience.
Answer 3: Retain the co-operative model, it has many advantages and is a model which has served us well.
There are no external shareholders, CBH enjoys tax advantages and it ensures that the co-operative is grower focussed.
The co-op has been stress tested in recent, and previous, times and this has led to some policy changes which have strengthened CBH.
We have the system of 50 per cent of growers required to vote with a greater than 75pc majority for any structural change, so changes cannot easily be made on a whim or a minority.
There is however an appetite for a method of benefit retention should anything change in the future and I would be open to consideration for such a scheme.
Well defined ownership rights, linked to patronage could give an increased level of commitment to CBH and would serve as an insurance.
Answer 4: Storage and handling is our backbone and must remain as the core business of CBH.
It should be the dominant focus and always regarded as the most important undertaking of CBH.
The synergies between marketing and trading (M&T) and operations create efficiency and the existence of the M&T arm ensure that there is a base in the price of WA grain.
M&T should also seek and establish markets for our grain to be exported to, in a timely and efficient manner.
Growers have surety of payment and can be confident that export compliance requirements are being met.
The marketing arm undertakes significant risk and in 2018/19 as you are aware, realised a large loss.
This has resulted in the risk appetite being adjusted so M&T is operating more conservatively and should now be buffered from extreme swings in profitability.
Some of the other investments, unfortunately have not delivered to expectations.
Generally any business does need time, however if things are not improving after a turnaround period, then in my opinion non-performing businesses should be divested.
If the business is not returning what the grower can, over a period, then questions need to be asked as to why they would remain.
Answer 5: Supply chain costs are a large component of our industry and keeping these low is paramount.
This is where CBH gives us a competitive edge for our product.
The site number reductions have been an important rationalisation process in delivering and keeping our costs as low as they are.
Where growers have been disadvantaged by bin closures, the freight rates have largely compensated for this variance to service.
If this is not happening it needs to be addressed.
The technological advancements made within CBH such as Paddock Planner and CDFs have positively influenced profitability through volume planning and bin segregations.
Innovation is an area where further gains are to be made.
CBH needs also to continue to work with the government to improve rail and road transport options.
The provision of service is an important balancing act and the system needs constant review and re-assessment.
Answer 6: CBH requires a board that is fit for purpose and agile.
Effective leadership and modern technology will increase CBH's ability to return value to growers and have CBH endure.
I would provide a focus on the core business, strong financial planning and clarity of purpose.
This would have an overlay of good corporate governance, with the engagement of growers and a return of trust for the co-operative through transparency being promoted.
We have a WA owned and controlled business with its own uniqueness, it is envied within Australia and much of the world and I would strive to see that preserved.