Public vote coming on one WA group

WAFarmers president Rhys Turton.

WAFarmers president Rhys Turton.

AN open and independently run and scrutinised vote of WA farmers is on the cards for August/September after WAFarmers president Rhys Turton said he would like to know what the majority of farmers across the State felt about having one organisation to represent them.

The vote is expected to run during or around the field day season for four weeks.

WAFarmers will pick up the cost with $10,000 budgeted for it.

WAFarmers chief executive officer Trevor Whittington said it would be posing a number of questions on the merits of a merger and on a completely new structure.

"Nothing is off the table," Mr Whittington said.

"If the recent glyphosate case in Australia is not a wake up call to farmers that the anti-everything activists are getting organised then nothing will shake the old guard out of their complacency."

Mr Turton recognised that he was bound by his own board, the same as Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Tony Seabrook was bound by his executive, but he expressed the need for the debate to "get away from the small groups in the organisations and let democracy run its course".

Mr Turton said the WAFarmers board was supportive of the course he was pursuing, after having been voted in on a platform of change.

"I'd like to hear from the majority of the farming community in WA that are not part of any organisation," Mr Turton said.

"Let's put it out to the growers and see what their opinion is.

"It's a great way to put it to the test do you want one group? And would you join if there was only one?

"As long as we get a formal vote overseen by an independent group, whether it is the Electoral Commission but we are not sure on the cost effectiveness of that or an online option, or even through the media."

He said WAFarmers had a working fund from which it could draw if needed to cover the costs of the vote.

He said if a majority of people supported the idea of one group then that would provide a basis to "sit down with the PGA and talk it through".

"Let's see if we can work through something that can bring us together," he said.

About 40 per cent of the State's broadacre farmers were members of at least one of the two organisations which shows there are plenty of potential members if the issue can be resolved.

He said he had been "getting advice from producers that were not actually members" who were "getting a free ride" from the benefits of the work that was done by the group but wouldn't support it which was disappointing.

He said many producers had told him that they wouldn't consider joining any representative group until there was only one, although money could be a limiting factor in membership growth with Farm Weekly having heard that some producers were put off by the cost of membership with WAFarmers.

Green Shirts Movement WA spokesman Alan Sattler has also been vocal on the two groups sorting out their differences and merging for the benefit of all.

Mr Sattler said a strong united voice was important for the industry's future.

Mr Seabrook was unavailable for comment but has said in the past that there was no appetite within the PGA to merge at this time, although it was willing to work with WAFarmers on issues of shared concern.