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Strength in numbers critical to farm advocacy success

In a recent media interview the question was asked, "what's my favourite part of being chair of Grain Producers Australia?".

In a complex world full of technology and instant distractions, it's often the simplest of questions which can get you thinking the most.

In considering a response, my mind first turned to the challenges of being away from my family and farm in WA's northern wheatbelt and that's happened quite a bit over the past 20 or so years.

This time away from home can be frustrating but it's been dramatically reduced over the past couple of years and we now know we can now hold more meetings online to discuss issues and policy.

What I do enjoy most, however, is the people you get to meet and the friends you make along the journey. These connections and friendships help make it all worthwhile and can last a lifetime.

When I first met Andrew Weidemann in 2008, we were attending a series of national round-table meetings with other state grower leaders as we worked together to fill the void in national grains industry representation, after the Grains Council of Australia folded.

I'm not sure exactly when it was, but over time we developed a mutual respect and became great friends.

Making good connections with other farmers and professionals who work in our industry is another enjoyable aspect of the role and you're always learning something new and valuable.

Another is working as a team to tackle difficult issues and achieve good outcome for growers.

This not only happens when we're working with the GPA board, but also on our policy council with other leaders who represent their grass roots producer members from across Australia.

Whilst we're not expecting a thank-you card from anyone for achieving such results, we all know when we've done the right thing. That feeling is both satisfying and priceless.

Being good advocates for growers also means you'll encounter a few bumps along the way and criticism goes with the job.

But if a bit of disagreement or push-back on policy is the price to pay for good advocacy and representation for growers, I'll pay it every day.

Another question posed during this interview was, "how do the interests of growers in my home state of Western Australian differ from those in other parts of Australia?".

Again, a complex issue which got me thinking about some of the different experiences I've had over time representing growers.

As we all know, there are key differences with the soil types, climatic conditions and types of crops produced in different regions of Australia.

For me however, one area where WA is quite different, and it disappoints me a fair bit, is the support our growers give to representative groups such as GPA and the WA Farmers Grains Committee and WA Grains Group who are on the GPA Policy Council.

Their leaders and professional staff do a great job and deserve more backing and recognition for their selfless contributions and work to benefit growers.

I've always been involved in team sports and like playing the team game which is why being a financial member of my farming groups is the starting point to show your support.

I also see this contribution as an investment in my farming business and it really is.

When you speak with farmers in other States more of them see real value in being financial members of their State Farming Organisations, as a way of delivering commercial outcomes.

It's a way of getting the hands of government out of your pocket and calling out others who want to take a few dollars more than they should off your business, along the way.

We need to support those who support us in WA, rather than find one or two things wrong or something that we don't agree with in the system and use it as an excuse to do nothing.

It's the old saying, "ask not what grower representation can do for you, ask what you can do for grower representation".

If we're all on board with GPA, working as a team, that gives us a much stronger grass roots voice to hold others to account.

If you've got a good argument or a great idea, then stand up and prosecute it with GPA.

That's the way to get it heard at the highest level and take action with strength in numbers, rather than just complaining from the sidelines.

This opinion piece was first published on May 3, 2022, at Stock & Land.


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