There are currently two spare seats on the CBH Group board - one of which falls in district one and was left vacant after former director Brian McAlpine's term came to an end and he decided not to re-nominate at the end of last year.
District one covers the northern part of the grain growing area, stretching from Binnu down to Miling and as far east as Bonnie Rock.
A by-election is being held to fill the vacant seat, with two growers throwing their hat into the ring to be elected for one term, until February 2024.
When an election was held in district one at the beginning of last year - which was won by Ken Seymour after the resignation of Rod Madden - three candidates had nominated, only one of whom has put their hand up again this year.
That grower is Gareth Rowe of Walkaway, who is standing against Gary Gosgrove, a farmer from Mingenew who is the Mingenew Shire president.
Ballot packs containing full voting information were mailed to eligible grower members residing in district one yesterday , with votes needing to be submitted prior to the close of the poll at 10am on June 4.
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 district one candidate's responses are below.
Gary Gosgrove (Mingenew)
Answer 1: I have always been a keen observer and supporter of CBH.
The fact that Ken Seymour, the other district one director, is located at the southern end of the district, means my location in Mingenew allows a better geographical spread.
The value that CBH adds to our farm businesses must be maintained and continue to evolve so that future generations can continue to benefit as we have.
Answer 2: Having served on the boards of United Farmers and Ravensdown for approximately 14 years gives me an understanding of the role of a director of a co-operative.
That is the dual role of representing members as individuals and the fiduciary duty to the co-operative as a whole.
I have served on the Mingenew Shire for the past 9.5 years, including the Northern Zone and Mid West Regional Road Groups.
Currently I am president of the Shire, so managing my councillors and working with the chief executive officer has emphasised to me the importance of working collaboratively within a group.
The recent cyclone has tested all those governance and communication skills in dealing face to face with various government ministers and their departments.
Answer 3: At all times you need to question the importance and relativity of different business groups within the co-operative.
I would always support a co-operative model.
However, it would be premature for me to advocate change until I become familiar with the co-operative's corporate strategy.
If after a considered review and discussion, any change would definitely be under a co-operative banner.
Answer 4: All business units need to perform on their own and not rely on storage and handling to be the cash cow.
The profits from storage and handling must be invested into storage and handling infrastructure.
I have always wondered about the relevance of the flour mills in South East Asia.
If the current re-structure that is in place doesn't deliver positive outcomes then the tough decision needs to be made and cut our losses.
I believe that marketing and trading should also be a standalone business unit and will push to make that happen.
I will find it interesting, and challenging, if I am elected to look at these investments from the inside to understand the current board's strategy.
Answer 5: While the cost of grain production may be high, the storage and handling costs only make up a small proportion of the whole.
Making growers cart long distances leads to increased costs to individual growers.
Recognition must be given to the necessity to bring some of the smaller sites up to standard so they match the efficiency of large strategic sites.
I would like to see a planned approach so that all sites have increased receival capacity and efficiency over a period of time.
There needs to be a quicker method investigated and developed for out-loading grain onto rail to make greater use of rail infrastructure.
Fertiliser and marketing and trading also have a very big role to play in cost control.
CBH storage and handling is significantly cheaper per tonne than our Eastern States counterparts.
We need to use some of that gap to get or keep our infrastructure up to an acceptable level.
Answer 6: While I recognise that social media has its place, I prefer to discuss things one-on-one.
This way the message can't be misconstrued and often leads to further dialogue.
As my sons now run our farms on a day-to-day basis, I have the time to dedicate to CBH and would welcome your call on 0428 281 240 to discuss any issues or concerns you may have.
Gareth Rowe (Walkaway)
Answer 1: Growers will recognise that I have stood for previous elections, I really felt that I let supporters down last time around by failing to secure a seat.
Our reputation has been hammered through the recent past which is a classic sign of one of the issues that beset mature co-operatives.
Make no mistake all growers would be poorer without CBH.
I have seen the devastation wrought when co-ops fail and I would not be doing my job if I did not do everything I can to support our co-op.
This is the best way I can do it.
Answer 2: Teamwork - it does not mean you cannot have rigorous debate behind closed doors, but it is essential that as a director you use your skills to critically analyse whatever the issue is with your fellow board members to reach the best outcome and consensus.
I would say I have three distinct experiences which give a measure of who I am.
Firstly, a business adviser for all manner of different enterprises - I have been accused of being a businessman first and a farmer second - and businesses both here and in the UK for commercial companies, but also within the accountancy profession so that leads into acquisitions, mergers, administration, insolvency and liquidation.
They are often very difficult and competing objectives but through it all I maintained a level of candour and fairness and created life-long friends and respect for the work done.
Secondly, putting my own skin in the game - I am a significant farmer in my own right and practice what I preach.
Understanding and respect for our industry and genuinely loving the farming industry and its people.
Thirdly, board governance experience, both as board director and in chair roles.
The arena of the board room is different to rocking up in the morning and telling the blokes what to do.
I have significantly invested in this, graduating from the Australian Institute of Companies Directors Course, which is now becoming a requirement for long tenure on our CBH board.
To summarise running businesses, farming and board qualifications - so a lot more to do with business and less political stuff, shire councils and the like.
As for my qualities, you probably ought to ask Lucy (my wife).
I work hard, I have determination, I am forward thinking, I genuinely care about our industry and the people in it and I do not have an ego.
Answer 3: I am only here because I want the co-operative to remain for the benefit of all its farmer members.
If we ever lost it, it would be a disaster for every active farmer.
Any mutual is a service provider but has a role to play in supporting its community and survives ultimately by fostering that spirit.
CBH has lost some of its lustre in this, so if you count that as a change which allows the co-op to continue and prosper, I would support it.
The world is an unstable place, we need to stick together and our reputation has been trashed in the recent past for no good reason.
The service function of CBH is clear, other investments if not meeting the expectation of returning value to growers will inevitably and regularly cause grief.
If farmers are effectively investing in activities which have a long lead time before a return is seen, this becomes problematic.
The investments are there at present so as with any business decision policies need to be in place to make sure they match the expectation of the co-operative.
A massive part of our capital in CBH are the people who work in the organisation - talk to them but in particular the younger ones.
There is a buy-in which value the difference of working for a co-operative.
We need to respect and nurture this so much, it is our future.
Answer 4: I have been lucky to be a member of the Growers' Advisory Council - it is advisory but it also allows an insight into the complexities of a $4 billion dollar business.
It is not that simple to focus on 'traditional profitable operations' - indeed how does this sit as a service provider which CBH undoubtedly should be?
You cannot get away from our farms' exposure to the world market and that of commodity grain production - marketing and trading is inextricably linked.
Put stop losses in place and do not take your eye off the ball, I am sure the exposure in hindsight could have been managed better, but it was not.
By definition 'non core' activities should in no way cloud or hinder the focus on the primary function of grain delivery to market and storage.
Answer 5: Farmers can be criticised for all sorts of things but fundamentally we are a practical lot.
Commercial farmers are not afraid of investment and with interest rates where they are it is a strong incentive to adequately capitalise the network.
Sure - you pay for what you get and everyone wants a bargain and free kick, but life is not like that.
We have to be fair with one another and really true to that value.
I am lucky in that I farm as close to the port as anyone.
It seems obvious to me that we need to make all our port activities as efficient as we possibly can, it is in everyone's interest, no one can argue with that.
There is a lot of dissent but when you look at the current basis value in the wheat price, this is catastrophic and directly linked to the current issues of getting grain through the port.
Elect a director who is close to this.
Answer 6: For CBH to survive for the next 80 years we must be true to our values and we must engage with the younger generation and we need board diversity.
While I wish Gary well, I really want members to vote for the younger candidate.
There is so much more I could say, so please if you have time, get in touch.
I am uncomfortable with campaigning through seeding as it puts extra unnecessary pressure on everyone.
Many of us have been impacted hard by (ex-Tropical Cyclone) Seroja and I do not think there is the appreciation of the mental impact this is having.
I simply wish everyone the very best outcome for the season's health and happiness.
Thank you for reading this.
p A by-election is also being held in district four, the candidates in the running will be profiled in next week's Farm Weekly.