Bruce Rock farmer Kevin Fuchsbichler will step down from the CBH board after 15 years this week, saying he hopes the co-operative continues to prioritise getting grain from its upcountry sites to port and revealing he is looking forward to a slower pace of life. In a candid interview with Countryman, Mr Fuchsbichler flagged ability to get grain to port as one of the “biggest constraints” for the $4b co-operative after taking in a record 21mt crop, but declined to weigh in on which of the three board hopefuls should replace him. He also called for CBH to bolster its 28 locomotive and 574 wagon rail fleet to improve the pipeline of getting grain to port. Mr Fuchsbichler surprised growers when he announced on December 23 that he would step down at CBH’s annual general meeting on February 18, despite confirming just weeks earlier that he would run again. His departure will leave shoes to fill on CBH’s Workplace Health and Safety Committee and Remuneration and Nomination Committee. Three candidates — Barry West (Kulin), Dee Ridgeway (Beverley) and Tamara Alexander (nee Stretch) (Narrogin) — put themselves forward for his vacant spot in CBH’s District 3 area, which stretches from Ballidu in the north to Marvel Loch in the south. Mr West was on Monday announced as the successful candidate and will be appointed at the AGM. Mr Fuchsbichler — who is the longest-serving director on the board after joining in 2007 — said he spent a lot of time weighing up embarking on another three-year term but no longer wanted to operate “at full pelt”. “My wife, Jane, and I have put a lot into the industry,” Mr Fuchsbichler said. “In 15 years, I have only missed one meeting and that is when I was overseas on CBH business. “I can’t half do anything. If I am on the board, I have to go full pelt. “I am sorry if I’ve let anyone down by stepping down, that plays big on my mind.” Mr Fuchsbichler was one of seven CBH board candidates who took part in CBH’s inaugural Candidate Assessment Panel in December. The three-person panel — made up of CBH chair Simon Stead and Perth business leaders Terry Agnew and Suzanne Ardagh — was tasked with determining whether candidates have the “desired skills and attributes” for the CBH board. The process kicked off with formal interviews designed to explore candidates’ skills, attributes and experience before a confidential feedback session with each individual to provide them with an “overall rating” and “qualitative comments” on certain criteria. A report on each board hopeful was mailed to growers in January to tell them how each would “fit with the role of a CBH director”. The panel was compulsory for incumbent directors and “strongly encouraged” for new candidates. Mr Fuchsbichler said he “passed” the assessment with “no trouble at all”, despite not having completed the Australian Institute of Company Directors course — which will become mandatory for CBH directors to complete this year. “It would be a serious worry if I didn’t (pass the CAP process),” he said. “Taking part in the panel (as an incumbent) is a board directive and gives you an opportunity to look at what is required. “They ask a lot about what your vision is for CBH, and whether you have the necessary financial skills.” Mr Fuchsbichler said the board was functioning well but noted it was a fairly green group. His departure will leave Mr Stead as the most experienced director on the board, with seven years’ experience. “We have a lot of very new people in there with a lot of learning to be done,” Mr Fuchsbichler said. “I can see that if they keep learning, taking courses – no one goes in there knowing it all – their knowledge will evolve over time.” Mr Fuchsbichler joined the board two years after a blaze sparked by a tipped jerry can left him with burns to 37 per cent of his body. He has been a staunch advocate for farm safety in the years since. While he wasn’t expecting to be elected when he was first nominated in 2007, Mr Fuchsbichler said he had done his best. “I thought to myself, the growers of WA have given me a three-year contract to do the best I can for them,” he said. “I have just kept that philosophy all the way through, and every time I’ve gone to re-nominate and have won – or just been reappointed because no one stood – I just made that same promise to myself and them.” Mr Fuchsbichler said some of the highlights of his time on the board included CBH purchasing its own rail fleet in 2011, the release of CBH’s Network Strategy in 2016, and fighting off Australian Grains Champions’ efforts to corporatise CBH in 2016. “That was scary but exciting, and the way the co-operative pulled together during that was an amazing part of history,” he said. “Trains were a real game changer too. For everyone sitting around that table to have the courage to do that was fantastic.” Mr Fuchsbichler declined to comment on who he wanted to replace him, saying he had “always left it to growers” to decide. He did, however, flag constraints in getting grain to port as a major concern for the co-operative after a record harvest. “Delivering to CBH is less than half of the job. The big job is getting it from those bins, over the rail, and onto a ship,” he said. “The ports can handle a lot more tonnes ... but the pipe into the port is too small. “Rail is the quickest and most efficient way of getting grain to the ports. CBH seriously needs to be looking at expanding its rail fleet.” Mr Fuchsbichler said his wife and son, 33-year-old Josh, who helps to run the farm, were elated to spend more time with him. “It has been a long time, I’ve worked hard, I’ve done my best, and I got it right most of the time but not always,” he said. “The cooperative is a bit like a Ferrari — it can take corners at a great speed but if you make a mistake, it can be catastrophic. “It takes a long time to build up, but it doesn’t take much to drag it down if you make a mistake.” The CBH board is composed of nine grower member directors and three independent directors. Two grower directors are elected from districts one, two, three, and four, and one director is elected in District 5.