GRDC set for deregulation

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

The Australian grains industry looks set to face major upheaval in the coming 12 months, after grower representatives voted unanimously to begin transitioning the Grains Research and Development Corporation away from a statutory authority structure.

At a national industry meeting, representatives from all States, including WAFarmers and the WA Grains Group, met to discuss the recommendations of the recently released Marsden Jacobs report.

Grains Producers Australia chairman Andrew Weidemann said the first step in the process of change was the establishment of an accurate levy payers' database.

"Before any changes can be made to the current model there was unanimous agreement that a levypayers' database be developed which can support a changing GRDC structure," he said.

Mr Weidemann said any change from a statutory corporation to an industry-owned corporation would require a poll of levy payers.

WAFarmers Grains Council senior vice-president Duncan Young said with the implementation of the amended Primary Industry Research and Development Act 1989, WAFarmers was supportive of a move to an industry-owned corporation.

Mr Young said increased Government red tape under the amended Act would impact negatively on research outcomes.

"There is far more red tape and scrutiny from the Government, because it will become a department under the Federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, not only accountable to that minister but accountable to the director of the department and accountable to the minister for finance," he said.

"It makes approval for any new work very hard. There are also many parts of the new Act that are still being written, which is a big unknown and really that should worry a lot of levypayers."

Mr Young said the meeting had been extremely positive and the next step in the process would be a peak industry forum, to be held early next year.

"Hopefully by mid next year growers will be able to vote on the future structure of the organisation," he said.

Mr Young said a move to an industry-owned corporation would include financial scrutiny of the organisation.

"Part of this change process will ensure financial and other scrutiny which has been asked for in this State," he said. "It will go a long way to answer these questions.

"There was no politics in the room, there was complete agreement that it has to go forward in some way or another, with the end goal being better research and a better research company for farmers in the future, and that's a big plus."

WA Grains Group chairman Doug Clarke hailed the industry meeting as a significant step forward in the process for change.

"It was probably one of the rare occasions that I've been involved at a national level where everybody was going in the same direction," he said.

"That was quite refreshing. The ball is definitely rolling now."

But Mr Clarke said growers should not be afraid of change.

"It's very exciting because growers are going to get a vote. Women got a vote in 1902, but grain growers have been waiting until 2014 for a vote," he said.

"It was really positive, and I believe it's the start of a much better collaboration between grower groups."

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