What can I expect of my Executive representative?
The recent Grain SA congress held in early March, saw the election and re-election of a number of farmer representatives to serve on the executive of Grain SA. The question arises, what do these people do and what can we, as ordinary paid up members of Grain SA, expect from them?
GRAIN SA IS A GRAIN COMMODITY ORGANISATION
It is important to understand that Grain SA is an organisation established by farmers to serve the interests of farmers. Farmers need to be giving their full attention to running their farming operations and yet, there are many different events in the broader sector that require the attention of experts. The team that is led by the CEO, Mr Jannie de Villiers, is designed to monitor the political, economic and geographic environment both locally and internationally and assess how new developments impact the agricultural sector and grain farming in particular.
The experts whom are employed by Grain SA, network widely and monitor and analyse developments in the sector then feed information through to the different committees. The farmer representatives consider the developments and respond in the best interests of farmers giving management guidance as to how they should respond and comment on the developments. For example, when news of the invading Fall Army worm was released, our research team played a significant role in tracking the path of destruction caused by the worm. They also immediately discovered and informed farmers about the best protocols for managing the pest in our fields.
The team is varied and has many different focus areas. Some examples are:
- The Research and Development division which monitors crop improvements like cultivar development, crop protection e.g. monitoring of pests and diseases. They also focus on Conservation Agriculture which promotes soil health, reduced tillage and monitors the environmental influences like water. Further, they monitor policy and legislation so that Acts, Bills and Policies that affect grain producers will be shared as they get passed.
- An Agricultural Economics division monitors a wide variety of instruments at play in the sector which affect the grain economy, ranging from commodity and input price movements, import tariffs, diesel rebate negotiations, production reports and crop estimates, climate change and policy and development etc.
- Farmer Development has been tasked by Congress to make a contribution to the land reform process by contributing to sustainable farming businesses and increased household food security.
- Lobbying in the agriculture and political sector is the responsibility of the experts and leaders of the organisation.
- The Marketing and Communications division are responsible for building relationships with the farmers and other stakeholders in the sector.
This list is not complete but rather is just a small indication of the wide scope of activities and tasks delegated to the Grain SA management team.
HOW ARE THE FARMERS ORGANISED?
- Farmer members nominate delegates to represent them from the different regions.
- Delegated farmers attend Grain SA’s Annual Congress of farmers.
- Congress delegates elect the Executive, referred to in-house as ‘Hoofbestuur’.
- Congress also votes to appoint the Chairperson and two Vice-chairpersons. Note: Congress 2019 elected Jaco Minnaar as Chairperson and Derek Mathews and Ramodisa Monaisa as Vice-chairperson.
- The Executive then elect an Executive Committee – this includes the Chairperson, two Vice-chairpersons and at least four other members.
- The Executive Committee, referred to in-house as ‘Dagbestuur’, is involved with management and monitoring of day to day business, financial and investment decisions and personnel performance among other tasks.
- The Executive also tasks members to serve on different specialist Working Groups (WG), which are comprised of teams of farmers serving on the Executive and members of management. Their focus is on specific areas of interest, e.g. each commodity has a Specialist Working Group focusing on issues unique to that commodity including market environment, price volatility, legislation and research requirements specific to each crop. The Editorial Team WG focus on the SA Grain magazine content and the Farmer Development WG focuses on work being done by the Farmer Development managers etc.
Why is it important that you send active, involved leader farmers who are good communicators to represent you as delegates to Congress?
According to the constitution of the organisation, the Congress of delegates i.e. the farmer representatives who attend Grain SA Congress sessions is the highest authority of the organisation. When Congress makes a decision, it stands! This means it becomes fundamental policy of the organisation and will serve as an instruction to the management team. This is why you need to be clear on what you want.
As a group of farmers, you need to find a common voice to TELL YOUR DELEGATES what you want them to speak about. They are your channel of communication to take your region’s issues, concerns, challenges and opinions to the discussion platforms at Congress.
- Your delegates should be going to Congress to REPRESENT your region and those individuals should be willing and ready to speak out on your behalf. Furthermore, they must be ready to vote a single regional representative as Executive Member onto the Executive who is willing to serve for at least a term which lasts two years.
- Your delegate on the Executive needs to be willing to COMMUNICATE – TWO WAYS!
- Executive members must voice their farmers’ messages to the Executive and they must return to their regions to feedback discussions and decisions or sector news and developments to their farmers who they are representing. You should EXPECT regular FEEDBACK. And you need to be sure your Executive member stays in touch with your issues and voices them on your behalf.
- IF you are CONFIDENT that your Executive Representative is truly representing you, then you know your concerns will be discussed or debated at that level. Of course, not every debate arrives at the desired outcome because there are many viewpoints to be considered at that level however, if your delegate NEVER VOICES YOUR ISSUES then how will the organisation ever be made aware of them?
- To serve as an Executive member of Grain SA is certainly an honour, but it is also a responsibility. Members are not paid a salary (apart from traveling expenses and a small day fee). This is a VOLUNTEER position where a farmer SERVES their farming community and acts as a CHAMPION on behalf of other farmers.
Ultimately, it is up to every farmer to keep his or her finger on the pulse, to stay in contact with the representatives and to ask questions. Make sure you are being represented at the highest level of the organisation. Send your issues through no matter how big or small they seem. The team is highly competent and willing to assist individual farmers with troubleshooting, even at a one-to-one level. If you don’t speak up, they can’t know about your challenges to extend a helping hand.
Publication: June 2019