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Time for a change says CBH board nominee

Coorow grower and nominee for the CBH Board of Directors Michael O’Callaghan said the CBH co-operative was the envy of the east coast but needed to be the envy of the world.MIDLANDS grower Michael O’Callaghan has big plans for his appointment to the CBH Board of Directors if voted in at this year’s shareholder election.

Mr O’Callaghan was the only newcomer to the election race this year despite huge grower interest in the structure and direction of the CBH co-operative.

He will run against current director Clancy Michael.

Citing the idea that CBH needed to work harder for its growers, Coorow farmer Mr O’Callaghan told Farm Weekly that the CBH co-operative was the envy of the east coast but should be the envy of the world.

“When CBH is redesigned it has just got to be bulletproof,” he said.

He compared the potential of CBH to New Zealand dairy company Fonterra and said its members were privileged to be part of an expanding and growing company that worked hard for its producers.

Mr O’Callaghan said the CBH co-operative had been lazy and he wanted to see CBH working harder.

“If we’re talking a billion dollar business, then it’s not assisting farmers to its full capacity,” he said.

“I really want to see this business doing more for growers.

“The CBH Group should be giving WA farmers a huge advantage.

“There are also things that I see as basics but they’re still not happening and it’s frustrating.”

Mr O’Callaghan wanted to see executive bonuses linked directly to lower costs and higher grain prices for farmers.

“It’s a co-operative that should have one priority to look after and that is the active graingrower,” he said.

“I want to see the $100 million of growers’ money in the flour mills come back onto farmers’ balance sheets.

“And maybe we have to use the flour mills and other value adding ventures to set up funding to reward retiring growers.”

Further to that Mr O’Callaghan, raised questions about on-farm sampling sites at harvest.

“We need to make sure that’s very equal across the board – a completely fair and transparent system,” he said.

“Yet on the contrary, community sampling is a wonderful idea and I think there should be more of it.”

He was also disappointed with CBH’s harvest finance package and said the company’s scale could always provide more monetary value for loyal growers.

“CBH Grain isn’t offering the best harvest finance around,” he said.

“With their $250 million of reserves CBH should be leveraging off that and giving growers best interest margins in Australia.

“CBH doesn’t have to be the biggest in the grain game to assist WA growers, just constantly offer the best deals to us.

“If other grain giants want to compete, let them.

“CBH just has to set a benchmark year in year out.

“It will be good if other businesses make better offers, because they won’t do it all year.

“If CBH was in WA offering harvest finance at half a per cent lower than anybody else could even think about, if it was offering a really cut-to-the-bone daily grain price linked to futures and currency and giving us five or 10 dollars better than everybody else, it doesn’t have to be the biggest to be the best for WA growers.

“CBH will drag the interest rates down, the grain prices up and drive other companies to want to compete.”

It was the support of other farmers which prompted Mr O’Callaghan to campaign this year, but he also wanted to unite the board and help send the co-op in one singular direction.

“CBH has been in limbo and it just needs to come out of the doldrums as such,” he said.

“There are so many good strong co-operatives around the world that we can model this group on.

“When you see what has happened to other organisations, whether they be storage and handling organisations on the east coast or the AWB, I just want no chance of that happening to us.”

Mr O’Callaghan promised not to be vague about what the members should get from CBH.

“There’s one direction that growers will get from me and I’ve supported the co-operative structure vocally and publicly for over a decade,” he said.

“It doesn’t have to change; it only has to have one master as such.

“A recent survey of 1000 growers has proven that over 80 per cent of growers want a co-operative structure.

“So all growers should understand there is neither the desire or need to float this business.

“I just think there are no grey areas and the combination of myself getting on the board and the existing directors will allow the business to be driven a lot further.”

He said he chose this year to run because it was time for a change.

“It has been too static,” he said.

Existing board member Wally Newman said he was disappointed that there wasn’t more players within the election race this year and Mr O’Callaghan agreed.

“Wally Newman and Vern Dempster are both very well credentialed with firm co-operative views and it would have been very hard for anyone to go up against them,” he said.

“The other thing we shouldn’t discount is the affect of the drought, it does knock farmers around and there are a lot of things that you don’t do when you’re in that kind of mindset, there are other things to worry about at home, because you don’t get on the board and take it lightly, it’s a big job.”

The election poll will close at 10am on Thursday, February 24, 2011 and the results will be announced following the vote count on the same day.

Information on Clancy Michael’s campaign to follow in next week’s edition of Farm Weekly.

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