OPINION: Changes to grain industry funds in South Australia overdue – GPSA Chair John Gladigau

When I first joined the Grain Producers SA board about three years ago, I was not fully aware of everything GPSA did, it’s roles and responsibilities, and how it really added value to the South Australian grain industry.

But during that three-year period, I have had the privilege of sitting around the board table and seeing first hand (and hopefully contributing in a meaningful way) the important, industry-shaping work that we have lobbied for and overseen.

To name a few, that has included

  • the removal of the GM moratorium
  • the rights of grain producers under the Mining Act
  • Lens Snail incursion response when others failed to act
  • the new hydrogen and renewables legislation which impacts on right-to-farm
  • the new biosecurity act currently before SA Parliament; and so much more.

There have been conversations with our WA counterparts around their government’s Cultural Heritage Act, which was recently repealed.

And then of course there is the harvest fire code, where GPSA continues to lead the fight to retain a proven system owned and led by growers themselves.

We’ve just set up a spray drift working group led by South East grower director Nick Hillier, which is committed to working with growers, machinery dealers, chemical resellers and other industry groups, such as wine grapes, to ensure we maintain a responsible industry standard allowing us to retain access to the chemicals we need to farm in an environmentally sustainable manner.

We are very fortunate in SA to have in place the Grain Industry Fund. No other state has this and as a result they have restricted abilities to advocate directly on behalf of grain growers. Our forebears had the vision and foresight in creating a system and structure, which is without a doubt the envy of the rest of the grains industry in Australia.

As the chair of GPSA, and a lifelong grain producer myself, I am very aware of not only the value of our unique GIF, which funds GPSA, but also of the benefits these funds give our growers for advocacy, policy formation and leadership information to improve the profitability and sustainability of SA grain producers.

And then we have our sister Grains Industry Research and Development Fund, which provides targeted research specific for the SA grain industry through the South Australian Grain Industry Trust.

But, as with all things, they need to be constantly reviewed to ensure they remain fit for purpose as our industry evolves and looks to set up the next generations of grain producers.

The reality is that when the GIF was initially set up in SA, we were a very different industry. Most growers were mixed cropping and livestock enterprises and based predominantly around wheat and barley. It made sense to set up a cents per tonne contribution aimed at crops of similar value per tonne. And while there was never an expectation that the rate would not rise, the volumetric rate has not actually increased in the past 12 years, which in itself is a fantastic testament to those responsible for managing those funds for squeezing every bit of value from every last dollar.

But as every SA farmer knows, our industry has changed dramatically in the last 10 to 20 years. And our contributions paid to both GPSA and SAGIT have influenced this. There has been a significant swing towards continuous cropping, precision agriculture, and the production of higher value crops such as lentils, canola, chickpeas and durum.

This has in turn created some disparity. Because a lentil grower receiving $900 to $1000 a tonne or a canola grower receiving $600-$700/t, is today paying the same per tonne contribution to the GIF as a barley grower receiving $250-$300/t. And yet at the same time, those of us growing those high value crops have without a doubt been some of the biggest beneficiaries of the advances created by the research and development provided by SAGIT and the influence of GPSA and the bodies of which it is members of.

As such, the proposal we are currently consulting on is in two parts.

The first is to create a more equitable levy collection system which is fit for purpose for today and our foreseeable future.

Secondly, it is about providing an uplift to the amount of funds collected so we can continue to build on the advocacy, leadership and quality research we need, and targeted to allow us to continue to be at the forefront of the grains industry in Australia.

We hope to have your support for this critical reform.

This Opinion piece was first published in the Stock Journal.

To read the GIF & GIRDF reform proposal and to vote, click HERE.