WAFarmers shakes off loss

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

WAFarmers is confident its future is robust, despite recording another financial loss.

WA's biggest farming organisation lost $117,000 last year, even after introducing a long list of cost-cutting measures.

It was also revealed income was down 4 per cent and sponsorship fell 8 per cent.

WAFarmers had recorded losses of more than $500,000 over the previous three years, relying on a declining membership to fund the bulk of its operations.

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WAFarmers president Dale Park said the lobby group had budgeted for a $100,000 deficit and had managed to come in close to forecast, despite some unexpected and one-off costs.

"It has cost us about $67,000 we didn't expect in relocation and termination costs this year," he said.

"Moving offices and especially moving out of one is a lot more costly than we had expected.

"The agent for the Burswood building had demanded we remove two extra offices we had built, which was quite unexpected, suprising and very costly."

Mr Park said there was also a "mix-up" with a former employee over a pro-rata payment, which ended up wiping $18,000 from the bottom line as well.

"We hadn't factored those costs into our budget, so when you include those costs in we've actually done a lot better than we had forecast last year," he said.

Mr Park said since the previous year's devastating financial result, the lobby group had made "significant progress" in lifting the profile of WAFarmers and celebrating agriculture in the State.

"Heart of WA was a huge success for us," he said. "It was heartening to get such a great response from not only farmers, who were busy with harvest, but also the wider community.

"We hope this year will be even bigger because we will time it a week prior to the Royal Show."

Mr Park also said WAFarmers' brand milk had not yet been reflected on the bottom line and there were plans to expand.

"We're forecasting $120,000 revenue from the sale of WAFarmers milk this year, with 25 per cent of that money going back into projects to help our dairy farmers," he said.

"In fact, the initiative has been so successful we're making plans to expand the range into grains, flour, honey and meat, and market those products under that brand all over the world."

Mr Park said WAFarmers recognised it was vital to invest in programs to attract young farmers to the organisation to lift its profile.

"Ag-Connect is a great program that will get young people involved with the organisation and hopefully on the executive in the future," he said. "This year the conference will be completely run by our young members."

Williams grain grower and WAFarmers grain section councillor Mark Fowler said he believed WAFarmers had begun to consolidate its strengths.

"The industry recognises the average age of farmers willing to be involved in representative organisations like WAFarmers has been increasing over recent years," he said.

"Young farmers haven't seemed to be able to make the time.

"I believe WAFarmers has put in a lot of work to attract younger members and its efforts are now starting bear some fruit, and with grains there is now a solid group of younger farmers around 40 years of age."

Mr Fowler said the Ag-Connect program seemed to be working to drive younger members to take up key positions in the organisation.

"In the modern era of farming, many of the issues farmers face may have changed, however the way WAFarmers goes about representing farmers over those issues has not," he said.

"WAFarmers is a grassroots organisation and it will only ever be as strong as its members."

WAFarmers will hold its annual conference at Crown Casino on February 19 and 20.

WAFarmers is a grassroots organisation and it will only ever be as strong as its members. Mark Fowler

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