WESTERN Australian farmer Barry Large has been elected the new chair of national grain producer advocacy group, Grain Producers Australia (GPA).
Mr Large farms at Miling and has served Australian growers on the GPA Board since its inception. He was also an integral part of the grower-driven process behind the representative body’s establishment in 2010.
Mr Large has been GPA deputy chair since 2013 and is also chair of GPA’s Biosecurity Committee which acts as a conduit for managing national biosecurity issues for Australian grain producers, working with key government and industry stakeholders.
His election also represents a significant change in leadership with long-serving GPA chair and Victorian farmer, Andrew Weidemann, stepping down from the top role after eight years.
However, Mr Weidemann will remain on the GPA Board to continue his strong focus on policy and advocacy matters as GPA’s national R&D spokesperson and managing strategic projects.
Mr Weidemann replaced inaugural GPA chair, Peter Mailler, who stepped down from the role in 2013, having also led the peak representative group’s development and establishment.
Northern region director, Andrew Earle, who farms at on the New South Wales-Queensland border, has been elected GPA’s new deputy chair.
Mr Earle joined the Board in 2013 and plays an important role representing growers as GPA’s representative on the Grains Australia Steering Committee.
This year’s GPA annual general meeting was held virtually due to COVID-19 for the second consecutive year.
At the meeting, WA farmer Gerard Paganoni was returned to the Board, as one of GPA’s two Western Region grower directors, to serve his second term.
A vote was held to appoint the two GPA grower directors for the Northern Region, with Mr Earle returned, while NSW farmer Matthew Madden, from Moree, was elected to serve his first term.
Mr Weidemann acknowledged the lengthy contribution and passion of Queensland farmer Luke Arbuckle.
Mr Arbuckle, who farms at Bungunya, was first elected to the GPA Board in 2013 as a director for the Northern Region and has chaired the GPA Audit Committee.
Appointments of the chair and deputy chair were unanimous and made by the GPA Board during a meeting held directly following the AGM.
AGM participants from across the grains industry praised and acknowledged Mr Weidemann’s significant contribution to the sector as GPA Chair and also welcomed his continuation on the Board, serving growers.
Mr Weidemann said GPA continued to champion issues that mattered to Australian grain producers; delivering real outcomes which helped boost their profitability and sustainability.
“GPA was established after the loss of the Grains Council of Australia in 2010 to fill the void that was created in national representation and assume legislative obligations for growers,” he said.
“I’ve been proud and honoured to lead a Board which performs these critical strategic roles and responsibilities; especially representing levy-paying growers with oversight of the Grains Research and Development Corporation; and for national biosecurity responses, under the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed working with Plant Health Australia and other committees.
“In the 11-years since GPA formally launched, we’ve made significant strides in growing and building the organisation and this journey will continue to gain momentum in the next year and well-beyond.
“I’m looking forward to remaining on the Board, serving growers, to keep advancing our interests and deliver good results that strengthen our businesses.”
Mr Large said the Board’s leadership roles might have changed but GPA’s core values and grower-focus would remain constant.
“We will continue to work diligently behind the scenes getting on with the job of representing all growers who pay a levy to fund GRDC’s activities, as per the PIERD Act, and biosecurity responsibilities, working with PHA in important areas such as our award-winning Grains Farm Biosecurity program,” he said.
“Andrew Weidemann has been a tower of strength for our industry and we’re fortunate to retain his depth of knowledge and experience on the Board, to continue advocating for Australian grain producers and delivering outcomes.
“The world is run by those who turn up and as Andrew’s leadership has shown, our members definitely turn up, to selflessly and passionately represent growers and build our sustainably.
“He’s certainly epitomised the GPA motto – real growers, real results.”
Mr Weidemann acknowledged the continued contribution of GPA’s Policy Council which comprises representatives from the Grains Committees of State Farming Organisations.
“We’ve seen with recent burning platform issues such as the harvest workforce shortages GPA can take swift action through Policy Council and deliver real results,” he said.
“For example, the work by our members, connecting retired and former ADF people with farmers through social media, to help deliver harvest, clearly demonstrates this advocacy in action.
“A can-do attitude means we resolve issues by working as a team and with others – in this case harnessing the collective energies of the ADF and partnering with other groups such as the Australian Custom Harvesters and President, Rod Gribble.”
Broad range of issues
Mr Weidemann said GPA’s role in managing issues concerning improved access to farm pesticides and technology was a core strength that delivered benefits to members and growers, through the expertise and services of Dr Rohan Rainbow.
He said this work included projects such as; the Federal Government review of ag-vet chemicals; developing and implementing the code of practice for autonomous farm machinery; the NSW spray drift pilot program; ongoing chemical-use permit applications; and cross-industry consultations.
“It’s impossible to quantify the financial benefits this complex, high-level background work provides to growers and our industry but there’s no doubt we’d soon know all about it, if it wasn’t happening,” he said.
Mr Weidemann said GPA had undergone a successful staffing transition and future resourcing would be shaped by the demands of core policy and strategic advocacy priorities; especially seeking an ACCC market study of the grains industry and assessing grain market certification programs.