Changing of the guard at GrainGrowers

Liz Wells, October 5, 2018

NORTH West New South Wales farmer, John Eastburn, is stepping down from the helm of grower representative body, GrainGrowers, opening the way for the election of a new chairman at the organisation’s annual general meeting in Dubbo, NSW, on Thursday, October 18.

Retiring GrainGrowers chairman, John Eastburn, at the recent launch of Sunprime wheat – a variety named in honour of GrainGrowers’ 60th anniversary. The forerunner of GrainGrowers, the Prime Wheat Association (PWA), owned the early wheat-breeding and seed wholesaling company, Sunprime, which was folded into Graincorp, before being sold to AGT.

Chairman from 2008-2014, then again from 2016 to the present, Mr Eastburn is retiring after more than 40 years’ service to the grains industry through his involvement with the Premium Wheatgrowers Association (PWA), which later evolved into the Prime Wheat Association (PWA) and then GrainGrowers.

His position representing the northern region on the GrainGrowers Board, along with that of fellow northern region director, Andrew Carberry, will be vacated and open for election at the Dubbo meeting.

Mr Carberry, who was appointed as northern region representative in 2009, retires by rotation in accordance with the constitution. He is offering himself for re-election.

There are also two new candidates contesting the two northern positions – Peter Thompson from Wallumbilla in southern Queensland and Chris Joseph from Dalby on Queensland’s Darling Downs (see candidate biographies below).

Focus on drought/licence to farm

GrainGrowers chief executive officer, David McKeon, said this year’s annual general meeting would focus on the key issues of drought and licence to farm.

“Drought and the social licence to farm will be two key areas of discussion at the annual general meeting. At the moment, drought has been a focal point, particularly in the Dubbo region. There will be a range of discussions around the right policy settings that need to be in place to help manage the drought,” he said.

“Also, the social licence of the Australian grains industry is something we need to focus on. For instance, glyphosate (and the threat to ban it) is really an issue. The community conversation around glyphosate really does have an impact on the ability of growers across Australia and the world to operate.”

Mr McKeon encouraged members to have their vote for the two northern region Board positions to help set the future direction of GrainGrowers.


Candidate biographies

Peter Thompson

I am a 59-year-old lifetime farmer from the Roma district in Queensland who is passionate about agriculture and its valuable contribution to modern society.

With my wife Nikki and two long term farm team members families we grow grain, forage crops and beef cattle.

I have been an active member of GrainGrowers since 2003 first serving on the Ag Reference Group of Australia and for the last nine years, the National Policy Group.

I have a deep understanding of where GrainGrowers has been, and what its capabilities are. I am very keen to be involved in its future direction at the board level.

A strong belief of mine is that as the population involved in agriculture in Australia has declined, it is even more imperative that we collaborate with our fellow farmers.

I have an excellent working relationship with all State farmer groups – without being embedded in any individual one.

Past director experience and board advisory roles covers groups as diverse as our own farm, Landcare, NFF & GRDC committees, through 12 years on Kondinin Group board assisting it through turbulent financial times, to State Government advising in valuations, environment & agriculture.

Having travelled extensively in Australia and internationally I believe I have an excellent overview of the needs of everyone from the farmer to the consumer. This is critical for our organisation when it comes to making good decisions into the future.

A major driver for me is to do all we can to provide the seedbed for the next generations to have opportunities to live and work sustainably in rural & regional areas. I believe GrainGrowers, with good foresight and direction, is well positioned to enhance these opportunities.


Andrew Carberry

Elected as director to the Board of Grain Growers Limited in 2009 and served as chairman from 2014 to 2016.

Currently a member of the Audit, Risk and Finance Committee and the Investment Committee. Previously I have served on the Nomination, Remuneration and Human Resources Committee.

Married with two children, I have over 30 years’ experience in the agricultural endustry with over 20 years as owner and manager of a 5000-hectare mixed farm. The property encompasses all aspects of cereal, legume and summer cropping including 800ha of irrigation. Includes a commercial beef cattle operation incorporating an Ausmeat Registered feedlot.

Through my education, farming and industry experience I have been exposed to many opportunities and I have gained strong skills in relation to the grains industry. Central to the position is the ability to communicate with all members. I feel that my time as previous chairman and a grower director of GrainGrowers and having served on the various industry committees has provided me with leadership qualities, the ability to motivate others and a professional and responsible attitude.

The grains industry has gone through enormous change. I have been part of a strong cohesive GrainGrowers Board that has delivered services and programs that benefits all Australian grain producers, while increasing GrainGrowers capital base.

I believe I have the commitment, drive and determination to continue to work for all Australian grain producers.

Key strengths:

  • Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors
  • Extensive experience in all aspects of innovative farming, especially the grains industry
  • Strong analytical and conceptional skills combined with a pragmatic approach to management
  • Ability to work autonomously or as part of a team
  • Demonstrated communication, interpersonal and negotiation skills necessary to lead with vision and inspire commitment of others
  • Previously a GGA Committee of Advice and Regional Committee Member


Christopher Joseph

I am involved in a family farm operation at Dalby specialising in all grains summer and winter and hay production both dryland and irrigation. Cotton, cattle and grazing crops are used as a rotation within the farming enterprise.

I have added value to my knowledge and experience by active participation such as a previous panel member of the Northern Panel of the Grains Research and Development Corporation for seven years and as a member of the Regional Advisory Committee.

Since 2013, I have been the only Queensland member of the Murray Darling Basin Consultative Committee and sit on the AgriFutures New and Emerging Plant Industries Panel.

I am a graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership Program and one of a panel of former advisors to the Australian Agricultural College Corporation Board.

My involvement in agriculture also extends to being a hail assessor for grain and cotton crops in Queensland and Northern New South Wales and I am a certified irrigation meter installer and validator.

I am a qualified company director and a graduate of the Queensland University Gatton campus.

Non-farming duties include being a member of the ARTC Inland Rail Darling Downs Community Advisor Panel, a member of the Consumer Reference Group of the Australian Energy Regulator and a member of the Consultation Model Working Group of the .au Domain Administration.

I have had experience in working with community organisations, grant proposals and the distribution of funds to rural and regional communities as well as pro bono work with those less fortunate.

My vision for the future of GrainGrowers is to provide a profitable and sustainable agricultural industry and to maintain a vibrant rural and regional community.


GrainGrowers annual general meeting will be held at held at 10.30 am on Thursday, October 18, 2018, in the auditorium of Dubbo RSL. To celebrate the organisation’s 60th anniversary, a special black tie dinner will be held on the previous evening, October 17.


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