GRDC revamp one step closer

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

The Grains Research and Development Corporation has moved a step closer to becoming an industry-owned corporation with the establishment of a national grower committee to facilitate the transition.

A meeting in Canberra this month, which included representatives from nine State and national grain organisations, agreed the current structure as a statutory authority could not cope with proposed changes to Government regulations.

According to Grain Producers Australia chairman Andrew Weidemann, the level of agreement on the need to lift industry productivity by way of having an efficient, effective and accountable system for managing research and development funds was "extraordinarily strong".

Mr Weidemann said after a report from consultants Marsden Jacob Associates last year, the group had been unanimous in its acceptance of the recommendations contained in the review.

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"There is a great deal to do in taking this issue forward, working with both the industry and government, and it will be the responsibility of the steering committee to define and facilitate this process," he said.

WA Grains Group chairman Doug Clarke said the GRDC in its current structure would struggle to form industry partnerships under the new regulatory regime, which would limit research and development outcomes for Australian growers.

"GRDC needs to reach further out to the rest of the world to capture greater research and development information and opportunities for growers," he said.

"We can't continue to have one hand tied behind our back, particularly since we are falling behind the pace in terms of increasing wheat yields.

"We are very supportive of a move to a more flexible and transparent industry-owned corporation."

Mr Clarke said WAGG was also supportive of a grower vote on the levy collection process, and a democratic process for the election of directors.

"This issue was discussed widely at the March meeting, with some grower groups in favour of selecting directors based on skills and experience, rather than an election, but we could end up with a combination of both an election and selection process," he said.

However, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association was notably absent from the list of nine grower representatives at the meeting.

PGA Western Graingrowers chairman John Snooke said before any changes to the structure of GRDC were made, an independent audit of the organisation, and its value to growers, was critical.

He said the GPA process was simply a matter of "shifting the deckchairs".

"The recent Senate hearings into agricultural levies have shown that there is widespread concern about the lack of performance from the GRDC," he said.

"This Canberra meeting, and those present, are trying to get in before the recom- mendations of that Senate inquiry.

"First, we need to lift the lid, have a look in, with a good thorough inquiry, then discuss the future."

WAFarmers Grains Section president Duncan Young said his organisation was very supportive of the move to an IOC and he hoped the process was a smooth transition.

"We believe it will costs growers a lot money to stay in the current structure," he said.

Mr Weidemann said the first meeting of the committee would be held in April.

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