Growers want stability from CBH board

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Cally DupeCountryman
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CBH’s District 4 area.
Camera IconCBH’s District 4 area.

Getting “back to business”, keeping the boardroom peace, reining in the budget, and reinstating the Tier 3 lines are some of the hot discussion topics raised with the candidates canvassing for votes during the CBH by-election.

Countryman spoke to the six growers vying for the district four position ahead of the close of the polls on August 7, and asked what feedback they had received.

Restoring the peace and getting back to business after months of public infighting was a key theme among candidates, who have collectively phoned and met with hundreds of growers this month.

Many of the candidates also said their farming peers had raised concerns about having only one district four director on the board.

CBH plans to fill just one of two vacant grower member director positions on its 12-person board and will leave the other vacant at least until it has revealed the results of a governance review in February.

The candidates are Scott Crosby, of Nyabing, Shane Carruthers, of Lake Grace, Helen Woodhams, of Kojonup, Bill Bailey, of Jerramungup, Royce Taylor Lake Grace, and Phillip O’Meehan, of Borden.

Mr Crosby said professionalism and unity were the key messages during conversations with growers, who were mainly concerned with storage and handling.

“Growers are disappointed with what has happened in the recent past,” he said.

“They want unity and professionalism. People are generally happy with CBH but they want it to focus on storage and handling.

“Storage and handling is the most vital part of CBH to them.”

Mr Carruthers said farmers he had spoken to felt a “bit jaded” about the CBH board and could almost “not be bothered” voting.

He said a lot of growers held concerns about CBH’s plans to hand its chief executive Jimmy Wilson a $400,000 bonus this year, while also increasing supply chain costs for the first time in four years.

“Growers want someone with a bit of on-the-ground knowledge, they are sick of the cost blowouts and infighting,” he said. “They want stability and the focus back on the grower...they are also adamant they want two directors in district four.”

Ms Woodhams said the growers wanted the board to “get back to business” as soon as possible.

“The consistent message is that they are reasonably happy with the storage and handling, but they want stability in the board,” she said. “They certainly want some due diligence done on the investment, and rail is very topical at the moment... most people are keen on getting those Tier 3 lines online.

“They think CBH should throw its support behind it.”

Ms Woodhams said some farmers were “aggrieved” by having one director for district four, and thought “it meant only one vote on any recommendations”.

Mr Bailey said his conversations with fellow farmers had been “pretty mixed”, but most of the growers he spoke to believed firmly in the co-operative structure.

“The recent kerfuffle has not made the boardroom look too tidy, so growers want an end to that,” he said. “Growers just want the board to get back on with the job.

“It has been a hard time for every grain trader in the world during the past year, so we have a lot to focus on now.”

Mr Taylor said growers he spoke to were bothered by recent bad press about CBH, and wanted the board to focus on core business.

“The main one is ‘just concentrate on the core business’, on the storage and handling, and let CBH get in the media for good stories rather than bad ones,” he said.

“They are looking for a change in behaviour, good governance, and for board business to stay in the boardroom.

“There has been some feedback about Tier 3 rail, and a bit about the network strategy.”

Mr O’Meehan said a sense of “getting back to business” had pervaded his phone and in-person conversations with growers during the past few weeks.

“The trading loss has been a big concern,” he said. “A lot understand the loss, but they would like more transparency about it.”

Ballot packs with voting information have been mailed to eligible grower members in district four, with votes due by 10am on August 7.

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