COGGO to stay afloat, with new role for board

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman
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The Council of Grain Grower Organisations (COGGO) board has voted to keep the organisation afloat through a new partnership with the Grains Industry Association of WA (GIWA).

COGGO's future came under scrutiny this week after a meeting was called to determine whether growers wished the company to continue under a reformed structure or to fold it completely.

Growers were asked to vote to amend COGGO's constitution, essentially operating with GIWA acting as its administrative agent, to deliver core functions under a service agreement. The alternative was to wind the company up.

But at Monday's extraordinary general meeting, neither proposal received the mandatory 75 per cent vote required.

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COGGO chairman Bruce Piper said the first resolution - to change the constitution - received just under 75 per cent, while the option to wind COGGO up received less than 50 per cent. The matter then went to the COGGO board, which voted to amend the constitution and join with GIWA.

Mr Piper said the new model now gave COGGO more interaction directly with industry - something that was previously lacking.

"Straight up, we'll be talking to the industry at an industry table," he said.

"So we can get a handle on what's required quicker and also be proactive in keeping abreast of changes in the industry and bring changes about in the industry."

He also said it was a natural progression for COGGO, considering the way in which the plant industry had evolved in recent years.

"Plant breeding is a whole lot wider than just producing a plant and industry has changed from all public breeding to only one public breeder left in Australia," Mr Piper said.

"We can be proactive in some issues - if there is an issue that needs to be dealt with in traits and molecular markers we'll be able to go down that path."

Under the changes, the board will move from a strategic board to an executive board and GIWA will be contracted to perform certain administrative jobs. Discussions on whether growers will be refunded equity in COGGO are currently underway with the board.

But while COGGO might be heralding the change as positive, not everyone is so sure.

WAFarmers had recommended growers vote to fold COGGO and Grains Section president Kim Simpson said it was hard to determine whether growers would in fact be better off under the arrangement with GIWA.

"I suspect that they won't be (better off) but I don't have any proof one way or another - I haven't seen how they're going to operate of under what rules," Mr Simpson said.

"It may work and I guess growers just make the decision whether they want to keep contributing - that's an individual concern.

"We thought growers might get a better share of their money back if they folded the company."

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