Grain levy payments concern

Jo FulwoodCountryman
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A WA grower group claims the variance in formulas used by different grain traders has resulted in an overpayment of levy funds to the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

In its submission to the GRDC Independent Strategic Governance Review, the WA Grains Group said in a small study of 7844 tonnes of grain delivered over numerous different contracts, there was an average over-charge of 4.44 per cent of the levy by grain traders.

According to the submission, this equates to about 13c/tonne.

WA Grains Group chairman and Lake Grace grower Doug Clarke said if those figures were applied to all grain delivered by Australian growers in the past 10 years, GRDC would have received a $50 million overpayment.

Mr Clarke said the issue laid with grain traders using different calculations to determine the net farmgate price, at which point the GRDC levy was paid.

"One of the ways to solve this is to pay this levy, or even simply just work out the amount paid at the same time as you are doing your BAS statement, just like you do with your fuel," Mr Clarke said.

"Farmers will work out their farmgate price better than anyone.

"Clearly our aim is to make sure that the correct levy is being paid to GRDC, growers shouldn't be paying an extra 13 cents a tonne if they don't have to."

Ten Tigers Pty Ltd managing director Chris Tonkin said his company had recognised the anomaly several years ago and had been working closely with several traders to set a consistent fees and charges rate to ensure accurate levy calculations.

"At the moment, every buyer has a different calculation. While the levy percentage that is applied is correct, the base figure that this levy calculation is applied to differs between different traders," he said.

"I believe there needs to be a uniform calculation so the levy amount that is being forward to GRDC is correct every time."

The WA Grains Group submission also called for GRDC to have proportional representation on the board, according to grain produced by value.

"On our investigations, WA has very limited representation on all of the rural research and development organisations and in fact, has only one member on the GRDC board," it said.

"Based on an analysis of GRDC regional production and gross value of agricultural commodity (grains), the Western Region, proportionally, should have three board members to represent levy payers' interests, where currently there is only one."

Mr Clarke said his organisation also supported proportional individual voting rights based on gross value of production.

"But to do this, and as a first step towards moving to an industry-owned corporation, GRDC needs to develop a database of levy payers," he said

"The people who are paying the most levies should have a bigger say."

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