CBH board candidate profiles: Natalie Browning

The West Australian

The battle is on for the final position on the CBH board, representing district 3. Vying for the spot is Natalie Browning of Kondinin, Lindsay Tuckwell of Kondinin, Stephen Strange of Bruce Rock and Rhys Turton of York. In this four part series, we sit down with each of the four candidates to ask why they have nominated and what they hope to achieve...

Natalie Browning farms with her husband Karl and their three children, Jace, Noah and Chloe, in Kondinin. They operate a 100 per cent cropping program on their 6400ha property. During the past 17 years, she has been involved in all aspects of the farming business, from machinery operation to financial management. She holds a variety of industry roles, including a position on the CBH grower advisory council, and is completing a commerce degree majoring in accounting through Curtin University, nearing graduation of the Australian Institute of Company Directors Program.

Why have you nominated?

I have nominated for a position on the CBH board as I am extremely passionate about our industry and want to contribute to ensure CBH, WA agriculture and our communities remain strong today and for future generations. CBH is a vital component of our industry and I would love the opportunity to represent growers and make a valuable contribution.

What can you bring to the CBH board?

I have a good balance of the practical, academic and leadership skills that are required to make a valuable contribution at board level. I am a very analytical and strategic thinker and have great communication skills. Being a younger grower, I can bring valuable diversity and refreshment to the board and offer a different perspective. I have a strong work ethic and am committed to ongoing professional development to ensure I am equipped with the skills needed to fulfil the role to the highest standard.

What does CBH do well? How can it improve?

CBH has developed some fantastic products that are creating additional value, improving market transparency and giving growers greater flexibility in managing the significant seasonal variations they face in farming. Quality Optimisation, Warehouse Advance, Grain for Fertiliser, Prepay Advantage and Marketplace are all examples of these.

In addition, the Interflour investment is value adding along the whole supply chain and securing markets for our grain in the fast-growing Asian region.

CBH needs to continue to focus on engaging with growers and building a positive culture.

Driving operating efficiencies within the receival network, correctly executing the network strategy and ensuring grain is being moved towards port in the most efficient manner are all items that can be worked on. Adopting technology to drive efficiencies is also important.

What are your thoughts on potential attempts to corporatise CBH?

I believe with confidence that the co-operative structure is the best structure to serve WA grain growers. This has been reinforced through my studies at the Executive Leadership Program — Cooperatives and Mutuals. Strategy determines structure, and If WA grain growers want a system they own and control, that provides a cost-efficient pathway to port, and returns any value created back to them, then a co-operative is absolutely the best business structure to deliver that.

If CBH was corporatised, eventually we would end up with a mix of farming and non-farming shareholders, resulting in a divergence of interests between shareholders who want the business to be profit driven and those that want the business to be value driven. With the government set to adopt positive legislative changes to relax capital raising restrictions for co-operatives, there will soon be more flexibility within this business structure.

What is your view on CBH investing outside of WA?

CBH is competing in an international marketplace against much larger multinational companies, so it’s important that it continues to grow and evolve. Strategic investments that compliment the core storage and handling business, secure markets for our grain, value add, and create returns should investigated when the opportunities arise. These opportunities might be in Western Australia, as well as interstate and oversees, and all should be assessed on their potential to provide a return, not their location. As long as investments are not being made at the expense of maintenance or investment in the storage and handling network I don’t think we should be restricting ourselves to only investing in WA.

What are the biggest challenges for CBH during the next five years?

Remaining internationally competitive is an ongoing challenge. Everyone is watching Russia closely, as it is becoming a powerhouse of cheap grain production.

The challenges we face regarding rail are also very relative and dependent on the outcome of the current arbitration process. Executing the network strategy successfully and ensuring we are offering the correct products and services to be proactively prepared for competition that may attempt to cherry pick our network is also important.

To view the other three candidate profiles, see Countryman’s website.

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