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CEO New year NEW LEADWith a new board of management at the helm, we look forward to a strong start to the new year on key issues affecting growers. Words Stephen Brown, vegetablesWA CEO IT’S certainly been an actionpacked year. We’ve seen the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021 come and go and, on November 16, re-emerge as a repeal bill. Interest rates have continued to increase, which is impacting sales at retail; the Inquiry into the Agriculture Industry in Western Australia report to the Worksafe commissioner was released and recommendations were made; we are still feeling the fall-out from Covid input pricing (or is it our new normal?); and costs in fuel, labour and insurance have taken their toll. However, on the upside, with the combined strength of industry bodies behind the National Farmers Federation, the Labor Government is starting to understand it needs to work with us or we will push back. That will be key over the next six months. We are seeing reports come out that horticulture has the least impact on the environment than other agriculture industries, meaning our push to 2030 carbon zero farming may not be so brutal. We also see strong backlash from consumers on retail vegetable specifications. What are considered seconds still take the same amount of money to grow, so it will be interesting to see what impact this and documentaries, such as Rotten, have on our industry and if we can leverage it. “ Our board of management is key to our ability to advocate strongly on behalf of our growers and take steps to drive the industry forward”Our board of management is key to our ability to advocate strongly on behalf of our growers and take steps to drive the industry forward. At our recent annual general meeting we had a change of guard at the top and within our ranks, with new president Paul Shain and new committee members taking their seats. First up, I’d like to pay tribute to Carnarvon grower Dan Kuzmicich. He has stepped down from his role of West Australian Vegetable Growers Association (vegetablesWA) president after eight years. Dan led our board of management and industry through some of our toughest periods in living memory. While I have been in my role of CEO at vegetablesWA for only the past year, it has been a pleasure to work with Dan during that short time. He has been professional and passionate, and has been a huge advocate for the West Australian growing community – not only on our board, but also in several other state and national roles, such as the Vegetable Producers Committee. We thank you Dan for your service, and we look forward to working with you as you continue an active role in the industry at a national level. Dynamic mother-daughter duo Pennie and Lauren Patane are strong advocates for our industry. Pennie has just joined the vegetablesWA committee of management and Lauren was announced as the WA Rural Ambassador of 2023. Read our story on these women from p34. Secondly, I welcome Paul Shain to the role of vegetablesWA president, and welcome new board members Pennie Patane (Myalup), Leeann Dimassi (South West) and Michael Grubisa (Carabooda). I also would like to say thank you to Peter Ivankovich and Renae Adams, both of whom stepped down from their positions at the recent annual general meeting: your dedication to the industry has been much appreciated. With a whole raft of government decisions being made in the first few months of the new year, we are expecting a busy period for us and our committee as we determine how we will position ourselves on various issues and lobby on behalf of the industry. Lastly, while we have had some wins as an industry, we have had a tough year. I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and hope that you are able to have some rest and relaxation with family and friends over the festive season. If you are travelling, stay safe on the roads, and if you are staying home, I hope you get some time in the pool or at the beach. We look forward to working with you and on your behalf in the New Year. May we orchestrate some big wins for the industry in 2024.