Grain Growers Limited’s former chief operating officer has been propelled to the top spot of the farm advocacy group, five months after former CEO David McKeon suddenly resigned. Shona Gawel, whose previous experience at the organisation also includes a stint as general manager of communications and grower engagement, was announced as GGL’s new chief executive on February 9. GGL chair Rhys Turton, who is based in York, said Ms Gawel had already played a “pivotal role” at GGL, “delivering a wide range of member services and efficiencies across key operations”. “Her new role will tap into this experience and ensure we continue to represent growers on issues affecting their businesses and deliver development programs that build the skills and capacity of growers,” Mr Turton said. “She is the right person for the position, and I am confident the industry will embrace her commitment and dedication to getting on with the job on their behalf.” Ms Gawel, who has worked at GGL for more than four years, described the promotion as “an incredible honour”. “I am passionate that our work at Grain Growers reflects a deep understanding of grower needs, the local communities and the people that make them unique,” she said. “Everything we do will have a strong grower focus, and I am looking forward to delivering exciting initiatives that build a more profitable and sustainable grains industry.” Before joining GGL, Ms Gawel worked in Australia and the UK on projects ranging from digital technology, infrastructure and industry associations, to the charity and disability sectors. She said she was looking forward to connecting in person with as many growers as possible in coming weeks. GGL, along with Grain Producers Australia, is one of two national grains advocacy groups. Mr McKeon resigned as CEO of GGL last September after five years in the role, as a turf war brewed over which organisation was best-placed to represent the sector. Mr McKeon spent 10 years with GrainGrowers, including nearly five years as chief executive. His resignation came after WA’s State farming organisations called for there to be one peak national representative body for the $20 billion grains sector. At the time, WAFarmers claimed GGL could not truly represent national grain farmers because it had no fee-paying members. GPA was formed in 2010 and served as the only grains representative organisation until GGL was formed in 2015. GGL — registered as a charity — reportedly has assets to the tune of $120 million, deriving from its historic investment in GrainCorp Limited. GGL has aimed to increase WA representation in recent years, with three of the group’s 15-member National Policy Group from WA.