MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA —Grain Producers Australia (GPA) passed a series of constitutional changes at its annual general meeting to broaden its membership base and redefine its policy development mechanism, the group announced on July 28.

GPA Chairman Andrew Weidemann said the changes were a fundamental step towards unifying grain industry representation in Australia.

“For more than a year now GPA has been working with a coalition of up to nine grain representative organizations around Australia, known collectively as the NFF Grains Policy Council, but we haven’t had a formally constituted structure to support that – well now we do,” Weidemann said.

“It recognizes the reality that the things that push us together as organizations are greater than the things that pull us apart, a situation we needed to act upon."

GPA’s new structure offers two membership classes: individual producers and business members, with the requirement that business members must be formally constituted grain representative organizations in their own right.

“The capacity to bring together a unified policy council is a vital step for grain growers around Australia, because we need our voices and views to be clearly heard, understood and accepted in many places, with those voices and views coordinated through one channel,” he said.

“Our intention is to enable grain producer representation to work effectively through the National Farmers Federation ‘Streamline and Strengthen’ project, so we are confident positioning our new structure will be much better suited to achieve that,” Weidemann said.

GPA also announced at its meeting the appointment of Mitch Hooke to its board as an independent director. Hooke was invited to join the board following a successful career in policy advocacy and industry representation spanning some 25 years across grains, food and mining industries at national and international level.

“Mitch was for many years chief executive of the Minerals Council of Australia and much earlier in his career worked in national farming and grains industry policy as the CEO of the former Grains Council of Australia, so he is extremely well versed in what it means to represent primary industries in Australia,” Weidemann said.

“Mitch comes originally from a farming background and has developed great knowledge in trade, industry and macroeconomic policy, so we welcome him to the GPA board as we work through developing grains representation to a greater level under our new structure,” he said.

Also at the meeting Ray Marshall, a grain producer from Western Australia, was elected to the board from GPA’s Western Region. Marshall is well known to growers in Western Australia as strong advocate on behalf of the region over many years, with experience in research related policy development having been involved with the early development of the National grains research strategy.

Existing directors Andrew Earle and Luke Arbuckle, both from the Northern Region, had retired by rotation and were re-elected to the board.