PGA best for WA agriculture, says Court
Former Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA president Barry Court has slapped down talks of a merger between WAFarmers and PGA, saying the former’s bid to amalgamate has “threatened the future of WAFarmers”.
Mr Court weighed into the debate in a letter penned to Countryman and The West Australian this week, saying he believed PGA was “best positioned” to serve WA producers.
The former WA Liberal Party president said he wrote the letter after reading the results of a Statewide poll showed the majority of voters preferred having two groups.
“I am in my 70s and I have read about a merger for 40 years, and I don’t agree with it,” he said.
“The differences are there, and some of the things we have been able to achieve on our own we wouldn’t achieve as one organisation.
“The results were so rewarding to me, for what the PGA has done and will continue to do, to be the strength of agriculture in WA.”
WAFarmers president Rhys Turton this month said the group would drop its mission to have the State’s two main farming advocacy groups merge after the poll.
The group had been lobbying for a merger with the PGA since early in the year, arguing one voice was necessary to be better heard on farm advocacy issues.
The poll, conducted through an independent polling agency and co-ordinated by a rural publication, found 53 per cent of voters disagreed WA agriculture would be better represented by one single body, while 44 per cent said yes and 3 per cent said maybe.
Only 791 people responded, despite the vote being open to about 5000 farmers across the State.
WAFarmers members represented only 20 per cent of survey respondents and PGA members represented 47 per cent of those who voted.
Mr Court, one of five sons of former WA premier Sir Charles and older brother to another premier Richard, served as PGA president from 1998 to 2004 and was the Liberal Party of WA member president from 2008 to 2011.
He said the survey had “worked in favour” of the PGA, leading to a boost in membership inquiries.
“Right now we have two groups to help the farmers, and they can go with whatever group they want to, and right now we are the flavour of the month,” he said.
From the debate over wheat industry deregulation to native title and wool promotion, Mr Court had a finger in every agricultural pie during his time at PGA.
He began his career with Elders as a stockman, and worked his way into the wool department in Fremantle.
As chairman of the wool committee, Mr Court supported the PGA’s policy for the removal of the reserve price scheme.
Mr Court fondly remembers his time with the PGA, and was recognised for his services to agriculture with the Order of Australia (AM) in 2011.
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