PETER Mailler has stepped down as chairman of Grain Producers Australia (GPA) to concentrate on operating his family farming business.
Current GPA southern director and R&D spokesman Andrew Weidemann has been appointed the representative body’s interim chairman. Mr Mailler’s departure has been softened by the addition of two new board members, with Andrew Earle and Luke Arbuckle filling two casual vacancies for GPA’s northern directors.
Mr Mailler said the two new directors would provide a welcome injection of fresh blood onto GPA’s board of management, along with Mr Weidemann’s leadership elevation.
Mr Earle, aged in his mid-40s, is grain, cotton and cattle producer operating on the Queensland and NSW border, with previous experience on the AgForce Queensland grains committee. Aged in his mid-20s, Mr Arbuckle is a grain and cattle producer in southern Queensland with a strong family background in agri-politics and business leadership experience.
Mr Mailler made his departure decision public this week after the GPA board formally accepted his resignation and filled the two northern region vacancies.
“Initially I took on a role to help develop a representative model for the grains industry with a six-month commitment,” his resignation letter said.
“I had no intention or particular aspiration in regards to an agri-political career beyond establishing a functional national body. I am satisfied that GPA is a functional model for representation of the production sector and I remain committed to its success.”
Mr Mailler said GPA demonstrated value to growers and industry during last year’s heated debate over Wheat Exports Australia’s (WEA) future and the future of wheat export marketing regulations.
The conclusion of that debate - when the Wheat Export Marketing Amendment (WEMA) Bill was passed signalling the end of the WEA, rather than its expansion - triggered his resignation decision.
Mr Mailler said GPA had also proved it was representing the nation’s 27,000 grain growing entities effectively, through its ongoing oversight of the GRDC’s annual $140 million R&D budget, under provisions in the PIERD Act, and its plant health and bio-security responsibilities.
He said GPA had fought hard to achieve legislative concessions, like the inclusion of wheat stocks information provision on the WEMA Bill, which have also contributed to growers’ production and bottom lines “significantly”.
Mr Mailler said he left the GPA board in good shape and has “great confidence” in his replacement, Mr Weidemann.
“It is encouraging that through the recent wheat export marketing debate, in spite of the highly publicised grower disunity, there was in fact demonstrable and strong solidarity amongst producers that brought together a majority of frontline state representative bodies.
“This core group collectively accounts for a clear majority of representation of the production sector in terms of number of producers and volume of production and legitimately claimed to represent the production sector nationally through the GPA process.”
Mr Mailler was GPA’s inaugural chairman after it replaced the Grains Council of Australia as the nation’s peak representative grains body in August 2010.
In a frank interview with Fairfax Agricultural Media last year, Mr Mailler estimated he’d been absent from his personal core farming duties for more than 200 days in two and a half years, coming at a cost of about $200,000.
He said it was now the right time to step down and focus on running his family farm just south of the Queensland border near Goondiwindi.
Mr Mailler said longer-term challenges remained for GPA, and state farming organisations (SFOs) and grains industry members had some tough decisions to make about the future of national grower representation.
He expressed disappointment that the National Farmers Federation had placed short-term financial gain ahead of broader grower interests by allowing GrainGrowers to join the lobby group’s commodity council in late 2011, and “short-circuited” other processes designed to reach agreement on a unified peak national body.
He said that move destabilised the national representative organisation’s role and only added to the unhealthy level of industry division and politics.
“If they don’t want GPA to do the job that’s fine but it’s time to make a decision so we can all move on,” he said.
“My personal belief is that GPA is the right vehicle for the industry.
“GPA isn’t perfect and still has some growing and evolution to go through … but ongoing division in the grains industry will only compromise growers’ political influence in future and that’s our biggest challenge.”
Mr Mailler said SFOs needed to decide how they wanted to be represented and how to make that process work.