A LEADING farm lobby group that threw out a controversial proposal to license grain traders in a bid to lessen producer exposure to trader insolvencies still remains in favour of the scheme, but has toned down its rhetoric.
Instead of a full-bore push for licensing, members of the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) grains group heard at the organisation’s annual conference at Lorne late last month that the group was also pushing hard to tighten payment terms in order to give growers earlier warning signals about potential non-payment.
Grains group president Brett Hosking said the lobbying of traders was having an impact, citing changes at grain buyers such as Emerald Group, which last August said it shortened its payment terms to 14 days as a result of feedback from the production sector.
The licensing scheme proposal has been divisive, with the trade kicking back hard against the proposal, saying it would add further regulatory costs with no reduction in risk to growers.
New Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford, speaking at the conference, was lukewarm on the idea, saying she needed to be convinced the burden of putting regulation in place was balanced by cutting risk.
Grain Producers Australia (GPA) chairman and former VFF grains group president Andrew Weidemann said he felt there was scope within legislation to enshrine shorter payment terms.
“I think it is something that can be done and something that has real benefit.”
Insolvencies dominated debate, with the anger surrounding the string of grain trader collapses that left growers millions of dollars out of pocket still clearly on show.
GTA should liaise better with growers
There was discontent at the role Grain Trade Australia (GTA) plays in monitoring grain traders in some quarters.
Trudy Ryan, Manangatang, moved a motion that GTA oversee trade licensing and called on the organisation to liaise better with growers.
She said her family business had been impacted by insolvencies and in trying to recoup debts had tried to get help from GTA.
“We felt abandoned by GTA, we were just told there wasn’t much they could do.
“We lost money after doing all our due diligence and doing everything to reduce our risk, so I would like them to play a more active role in cutting down on these insolvencies.”
The motion was ultimately lost, with other members arguing it sent out a contradictory message.
Murtoa farmer Leo Delahunty said rather than put the issue in the trade’s hands, he supported further education for growers on risk management and the push for shorter payments terms.