GPA takes a seat at NFF grains table

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

Grain Producers Australia (GPA) has joined ranks with the National Farmers Federation's Grains Policy Council.

The successor to the now defunct Grains Council of Australia, GPA is funded through individual grower memberships, grower groups and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

GPA is the body that operates the PIERD Act functions on behalf of levy paying grain producers and has the responsibility of overseeing the statutory obligations of the GRDC.

According to GPA chairman Andrew Weidemann, the organisation also holds the Plant Health Deed, liaises with the Federal Government on biosecurity issues and manages the National Residue Survey results.

Mr Weidemann said while the group had joined the NFF's Grains Policy Council, the PIERD Act legislative responsibilities would remain with GPA.

"The NFF Grains Policy Council is only about setting policy for industry, not about negotiating on either of those (legislative functions)," he said.

"They will have input through that discussion forum, but in terms of the final policy, GPA will conduct that itself."

While WAFarmers is a member of the NFF Grains Policy Council, PGA is not.

Neither group is a member of Grain Producers Australia.

WA Grains Group (WAGG) chairman Doug Clarke said while WAGG was not a financial member, it was affiliated with GPA, and was considering financial membership. He said some WAGG members held individual membership of GPA.

Mr Clarke said he believed the GPA should retain control of its legislative responsibilities.

"It may not be the case forever, but the way it works at the moment is fine," he said.

"Some organisation had to take up that mantle, GPA being the successor from the Grains Council of Australia."

Mr Weidemann said WAFarmers, PGA and WAGG had all been invited to be part of the consultation process in regard its legislative responsibilities.

"Every group in Australia has the ability to contact us and put their issues on the table," he said.

But PGA Western Grain Growers chairman John Snooke said while he acknowledged that GPA held the responsibility for the PIERD Act functions, on all other issues, it did not represent all grains growers in Australia.

"It's audacious and disingenuous to suggest so," he said.

"The WEA debate last year clearly defined GPA as an organisation pushing for the re-regulation of the Australian Grains industry.

"GPA naively stated competition in the WA grains logistics sector would never occur, so an expanded regulatory role, without definition, for Wheat Exports Australia to oversea the Bulk handlers was desperately needed.

"The reason CBH, PGA and WAFarmers worked together to ensure the passing of the WEMA Amendment Bill 2012 was for the benefit of WA wheat growers who demanded the certainty and continuation of a deregulated market.

"The failure of National Representation was on full display as non-aligned, different views, battled it out from west to east."

Mr Snooke said the WA grains industry was unique with its own set of circumstances and sought autonomy from most policy positions held by the eastern states.

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