People on the move

People on the move in the grain and cropping sector

Grain Central, November 25, 2020

Who is on the move in the Australian grain and cropping industry? Catch up with our latest update of industry appointments, rewards, retirements and achievements.

  • Wilson appointed inaugural Grains Australia chief
  • Fitzgerald heads fodder association
  • Future Farmers appoints new directors
  • Bell elected inaugural Grassland SA chair
  • Riverine Plains appoints Marriott inaugural CEO
  • Roache joins Flexi Grain
  • New Climate Action chair and deputy
  • Birchip honours oilseeds disease expert
  • Honour for Victorian biosecurity leader
  • Recognition for khapra beetle detection
  • AgriFutures Scholarship applications open
  • Free Eyre appoints Lehmann


Inaugural chief executive officer of Grains Australia Limited, Jonathan Wilson.

Wilson appointed inaugural Grains Australia chief

GRAINS industry professional Jonathan Wilson has been appointed as the inaugural chief executive officer of Grains Australia Limited (GAL).

Mr Wilson, who has been involved in the Australian grains industry for almost two decades working with the pre and post-farm gate sectors, brings senior management experience in supply chain, trading, marketing, logistics and strategy, will commence the role in mid-December.

GAL chair Terry Enright said the Board had every confidence Mr Wilson’s experience would enable him to deliver on GAL’s mission to provide specific industry-good functions that enhanced the sector’s competitiveness and profitability.

Mr Wilson has served on many industry boards, including the Wheat Classification Council and the Boards of the Australian Grain Exporters Association and the National Grower Register.

In 2019-20, he led the development of the South Australian Grain Industry Blueprint on behalf of Grain Producers SA and the South Australian Government, working across the entire value chain to provide direction to grow the SA industry over the next decade.

Most recently, he has been working as a consultant to the agriculture sector, primarily on commercial and strategy matters.

Mr Wilson said one of his first jobs would be to develop a strategic plan for GAL, with input from industry representatives.

While the Grains Research and Development Corporation has funded all of the initial investment in GAL, industry organisations across Australia will contribute to the operations of the company through involvement on committees, councils and working groups.


Fitzgerald heads fodder association

THE Australian Fodder Industry Association (AFIA) has appointed experienced agricultural executive Paula Fitzgerald as its new chief executive officer.

AFIA CEO Paula Fitzgerald

Ms Fitzgerald has a long history in the agriculture sector, starting with the CSIRO, working across many commodity sectors, with State and Federal Governments and has previously run a national organisation.

A director of not-for-profit industry organisation Skills Impact and Animal Health Australia, she is also a member of the Federal Government’s Gene Technology Ethics and Community Consultative Committee.

Ms Fitzgerald has experience in stakeholder and government relations, policy development and advocacy, communication, regulatory affairs, issues management, membership engagement and capacity building.

AFIA secretary and Western Australian hay grower Suzanne Woods said the appointment was good news for the fodder industry.

“Paula will bring a new perspective to AFIA based on her broad experience across the agri-sector,” she said.

“The board looks forward to Paula’s commencement and her leadership to build on AFIA’s strong reputation of working for its members and representing everyone along the hay, silage and straw supply chain.”


Future Farmers appoints new directors

TWO new non-executive directors were elected to the Future Farmers Network Board at its annual general meeting, with a further three current directors re-elected to their roles.

The new directors are Amelia Shaw and Samantha Noon.

Future Farmers Network directors directors Amelia Shaw and Samantha Noon

Ms Shaw is policy manager for GrainGrowers Ltd, managing the drought, agribusiness, and trade portfolios.

She currently holds director roles on the YMCA of Brisbane and Y-Care SE QLD Boards and has significant experience in strategy development, marketing and partnerships as well as a comprehensive knowledge of the agricultural sector.

Ms Shaw is passionate about promoting young voices and ensuring young people are represented in conversations about the future of Australian agriculture.

Ms Noon is an experienced agricultural journalist and 2019 AMA Feature Writer of the Year Finalist, who grew up on a cattle and sheep station in Queensland where she first began her career with Rural Press, Fairfax Media.

She draws upon years of cross-sectoral experience, including digital media, marketing and communications, brand strategy, business development and partnerships, and is currently undertaking her Masters in Sustainable Agriculture with Charles Sturt University.

Ms Noon has consulted for a range of Australia’s leading organisations and global brands, like American Express, Rabobank, Syngenta, Virbac, Qantas and NSW Farmers’ Association.

She now works remotely from Inverell in northern NSW with AgriFutures Australia managing content production and development for the Agrifood Engagement programs in the lead up to the evokeAG 2022 event in Perth, WA.


Landline’s Kerry Lonergan shunted by ABC

A WIDELY-RECOGNISED figure on ABC’s flagship national rural weekly TV program Landline for three decades, markets analyst Kerry Lonergan’s contract has been terminated by the national public broadcaster.

In its explanation of the decision, ABC management simply said it ‘wished to move in a new direction’.

The announcement was followed by an avalanche of support for Mr Lonergan across social media and other channels ranging from politicians and industry heavyweights to grassroots primary producers.

Mr Lonergan was the founder and inaugural executive producer of Landline which started in March, 1991, replacing the earlier Countrywide program hosted by Neil Inall.

After a health scare he resigned as executive producer 10 years ago, returning to the program in a part-time role as specialist commodities analyst.

He came originally out of ABC’s Current Affairs Department in Sydney, but had a natural empathy, connection and affection for bush people which was clearly reflected in his broadcasting.

Recognising his years of service, Mr Lonergan was inducted into the Queensland Rural Press Club’s Rural Journalism Hall of Fame in 2015.

ABC Landline is due to mark its 30th anniversary in March next year.

Kerry Lonergan was the founder and inaugural executive producer of Landline which started in March, 1991.


Bell elected inaugural Grassland SA chair

THE Grassland Society of Southern Australia (GSSA) has elected its first chair with previous president Meg Bell taking on the new role.

Meg Bell

GSSA has adopted a new management structure, with a seven-member Board replacing the former Central Committee. As part of the change, the Society will now be led by a chair rather than a president.

In another break with tradition, Ms Bell has become the first person in the Grassland Society’s 61-year history to be elected to the top position for a second successive term after serving the previous year as president.

Ms Bell, from Konongwootong north of Coleraine, is the chief executive officer of MacKillop Farm Management Group, a farming systems group based in the Limestone Coast of South Australia.

She also coordinates a Better Beef producer group in Victoria’s western district and runs a vet and livestock consulting business with her partner, Owen.

She was raised on a beef and cropping property at Millicent and joined the Grassland Society as part of the organising committee for the 2015 conference at Naracoorte.

In another break with tradition, Georgie Rees, previously vice president of the Central Committee, is the first person to be elected as the vice-dhair for a second successive term. Long serving Grasslands member Tim Prance has also been re-elected treasurer.


Riverine Plains appoints Marriott inaugural CEO

SOUTHERN independent farming systems group, Riverine Plains, has appointed Catherine Marriott as the organisation’s inaugural chief executive officer.

Catherine Marriott

Ms Marriott has worked in management, strategic and leadership roles in the agricultural, research and regional development sectors, both in Australia and overseas, and will bring a wealth of experience to the organisation.

She will commence as Riverine Plains CEO on 30 November, 2020.


New Pac Seeds southern territory manager

PACIFIC Seeds has appointed Tim Wilmshurt territory manager for western Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.

Mr Wilmshut has more than 20 years’ experience in the agricultural sector, including seed production and canola product management.


Roache joins Flexi Grain

VICTORIAN-based pool operator Flexi Grain has appointed Sam Roache as its pool manager, who has joined the company to be able to work more closely with growers and help pooled grain achieve fair value.

Flexi Grain pool manager Sam Roache

Mr Roache previously ran Louis Dreyfus Company’s global barley book, where he also traded wheat and sorghum after moving from logistics and trading at Glencore.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Flexi Grain team and look forward to immersing myself in this business and achieving good outcomes for its client base,” Mr Roache said.

“This year is shaping up to be a tightrope of large production and world volatility and one where the waters of grain marketing will appear murky.

“If I can use my experience to help the business and its clients make sound decisions and bring greater value, then I couldn’t think of a better place to be.”


New Climate Action chair and deputy

NSW Southern Tablelands sheep farmer, Charlie Prell, Crookwell, has been elected chair of the board of Farmers for Climate Action (FCA).

Dr Anika Molesworth, an agricultural scientist and former Young Farmer of the Year, has been elected to the position of deputy chair.

Mr Prell said he planned to continue the work done by FCA under the inspiring leadership of outgoing chair Lucinda Corrigan.

“In the five years since it was established, Farmers for Climate Action has become an influential voice to government, politicians, and agri-political and regional leaders,” he said.

“It is the go-to organisation for farmers who want to see meaningful action to address climate change and a support mechanism for regional Australians who have the courage to speak up.

“Taking action on climate change will create great opportunities for farmers, who can benefit from hosting renewables and from being paid to sequester carbon in the trees and the soil on their farms.”


Birchip honours oilseeds disease expert

OILSEEDS disease expert Steve Marcroft has been honoured by Victoria’s Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) with the Harm van Rees Award for his efforts to minimise canola disease.

BCG chief executive officer Fiona Best said Dr Marcroft had been instrumental in developing many practices currently used in Australia to minimise disease in canola, particularly the impact of blackleg which wiped out crops in the early ‘70s.

Steve Marcroft

“Annually the oilseed disease blackleg is estimated to cause 10 per cent yield loss, and epidemics such as 2003 on the Eyre Peninsula, have resulted in up to 90pc yield losses. Recently, new symptoms have been detected for blackleg, termed upper canopy infection, which is causing an additional 20pc in yield losses annually,” she said.

“For the past 20 years Steve has presented at numerous BCG events, training days and has contributed countless articles to help growers minimise blackleg damage through the use of cultural practices, such as avoidance of last year’s stubble, using a seasonal response, genetic resistance and fungicide controls.

“Steve is an Australian oilseed authority. He has worked on everything from establishing the independent cultivar blackleg ratings, to working with federal agencies to help Australian canola be reintroduced into trade when it was banned due to blackleg seed infection.

“This has ensured canola is still a viable, profitable crop for our region.”

The award, which has only been bestowed four times since its inception in 2007, was presented in the field to a surprised Mr Marcroft who thought he was there to conduct a blackleg training session with BCG staff.

In presenting the award BCG chairman John Ferrier thanked Mr Marcroft for the work he had done, and continued to do, to support the region’s cropping systems.

The award’s namesake, Harm van Rees, who attended the paddock presentation via zoom, praised Mr Marcroft’s work.

“BCG is what it is because of the tremendous support of our local farmers, sponsors, funding agencies, staff and of course research supporters of which Steve has been a major contributor. Steve has been a part of BCG’s journey for a long, long time,” he said.

The Harm van Rees award was first awarded in 2007 to no-till farming pioneer Allen Postlethwaite, subsequent recipients have been legendary Mallee agronomist Rob Sonogan, and the late Tony Rathjen, who was responsible for creating the popular wheat varieties Frame and Yitpi.


Honour for Victorian biosecurity leader

A VICTORIAN scientist who has dedicated his 35-year career to protecting Australia’s plant industries from pests and diseases has won a national award with significance beyond what he could have imagined.

Agriculture Victoria’s Professor Brendan Rodoni was awarded the inaugural Dr Kim Ritman Award for Science and Innovation for his contribution to biosecurity research and national leadership.

Dr Kim Ritman, who was Australia’s chief plant protection officer, died earlier this year following an accident in 2019 and was a mentor, colleague and friend to Professor Rodoni.

Professor Rodoni, who leads Agriculture Victoria’s Microbial Sciences, Pests and Diseases research team at the AgriBio Centre for AgriBioscience, said it was incredibly sad to lose someone like Dr Ritman and winning an award in his honour meant more than the award itself.

Brendan Rodoni


Recognition for khapra beetle detection

THE National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has recognised the efforts of a Canberra man, who detected the larvae of the grain industry pest, khapra beetle, in the packaging of a new fridge.

Brett Burdett received a community award for his decision to report a detection of the unusual insect in August.

Reporting of the khapra detection by Mr Burdett allowed the department to initiate immediate tracking, tracing, inspection, containment and treatment of the pest, and showed what a critical role the community plays in biosecurity surveillance.

NFF chief executive officer Tony Mahar said community vigilance was an important component of biosecurity but it must be supported by the requisite will and investment of government.

“An outbreak of khapra beetle could cost Australia $15.5 billion over 20 years through revenue losses from reduction in production and exports.

“It would be a heavy blow to our grain growers many of whom are embarking on the first decent harvest in years.”

“Unfortunately, the global spread of khapra beetle is increasing and it is being detected on a wide range of plant products and as a hitchhiker pest on containers from places where khapra is not known to occur.

“The spread of khapra – and many other damaging pests and diseases – is deeply concerning to Australia’s farm sector, and the reporting of a further detection of khapra only serves to add weight to the NFF’s call for government to better resource border and pre-border biosecurity measures.”


AgriFutures Scholarship applications open

APPLICATIONS for the 2021 AgriFutures Horizon Scholarship Program are now open to students entering their final two years of an undergraduate degree who are passionate about the future of Australian rural industries.

The AgriFutures Horizon Scholarship is a collaboration between many of the Research and Development Corporations (RDC’s) to provide eligible university students with a $10,000 bursary over two years and plenty of opportunities to develop their leadership skills and expand their networks.

As part of the program, students also attend an annual four-day professional development workshop and complete two weeks of industry work placements.

The Horizon Scholarship Program is open to students studying agriculture-related or STEM degrees with major studies and/or subject selections that align to agriculture.

To be eligible to apply students must:

  • Be an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • Be studying an undergraduate degree at an Australian university
  • Be entering the final two years of their degree in 2021

Scholarship recipients will be selected on the basis of their commitment to a career in agriculture, as well as their leadership potential and tertiary academic record to date.

Applications close Friday, 15 January 2021 at midnight AEDT. Shortlisted applicants must be available for a telephone interview in February 2021, and scholarship winners will be announced in April 2021.

For more information and to apply visit


Free Eyre appoints Lehmann

FREE Eyre has appointed Chris Lehmann as its communications coordinator to act as a central point of contact during development of the Peninsula Ports grain port at Port Spencer.

Free Eyre chairman John Crosby said the organisation was pleased to appoint such a capable and well-known local to look after the interests of its 488 shareholders.

“Free Eyre will be active and proactive on the Eyre Peninsula and we want the shareholders to play an important part in our decision-making,” Ms Lehmann said.

Ms Lehmann’s role includes ensuring shareholders’ concerns are reported to the Board and acted upon, and providing information on the Port Spencer development.

Based in Kimba, Ms Lehmann has a background in trading grain, and is a founder of Free Eyre.




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