Keith Perrett to step down as GRDC Board Chair

Author: Sharon Watt | Date: 21 Jun 2013

Keith Perrett kneeling in a harvested paddock with soil pouring through his hands. A red harvester can be seen in the background.

Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Board Chair Keith Perrett today announced that he will be stepping down from the position he has held for the past six years.

Mr Perrett’s current three-year term expires on September 30 and the process to find a new Chair will get underway this weekend when the position is advertised.

Mr Perrett, a mixed farmer from Gunnedah in northern New South Wales, has led the GRDC through a period of significant change, as the organisation has adapted to a shifting landscape in the grains industry.

“My two consecutive terms as Chair have been the most rewarding period of my professional life,” Mr Perrett said.

“Many challenges have confronted the Australian grains industry over the past decade, including increasing climate variability, globalisation of the marketplace, marketing deregulation, price volatility, increasing costs and ongoing issues with weeds, pests and diseases.

“But I am always encouraged by the resilience, tenacity and adaptability of our nation’s grain growers, who, with the support of GRDC, continue to overcome these obstacles to play an important role in world food production,” he said.

Mr Perrett said he was leaving GRDC at a time when the organisation had never been more dynamic and effective in servicing the needs of its stakeholders, especially Australian grain growers.

“GRDC has positioned itself to deliver the research and development outcomes needed to underpin increased productivity, sustainability and profitability within the Australian grains industry, becoming one of the industry’s most vital assets,” he said.

“The significant reduction in public funds and positions dedicated to grains research has presented an ongoing challenge for the grains industry but we have established a business model that is maximising investment value for levy-paying grain growers.

“Pivotal to the success of that model has been GRDC’s deliberate thrust to ‘get closer to growers’ through increased representation and engagement in the regions, as well as a concerted effort to collaborate more with private research organisations.

“The result has been targeted investment in research, development and extension to address the issues and constraints that are most relevant to Australian growers.

“This new landscape also includes greater investment with the private sector and the development of partnerships like InterGrain – the Western Australian wheat breeding company which is delivering huge advancements in variety development,” said Mr Perrett.

GRDC Managing Director John Harvey said Mr Perrett’s contribution and impact would be long remembered.

“Keith has been at the helm of GRDC during what has been a critical time in the organisation’s history,” Mr Harvey said.

“He has guided GRDC from being a player in the margins of R&D, to being a pivotal part of the grains research landscape, facilitating between 40 and 45 per cent of the total spend on grains R&D in Australia.

“Keith’s vision and passion have driven change and restructure, creating a GRDC that is where it should be – focused on providing growers with the best value for their levy dollar and accountable for its investment decisions.”

Under Mr Perrett’s leadership, GRDC played a pivotal role in shaping the framework for the National Grains Research, Development and Extension Strategy which forges agreement on where to concentrate resources and where duplication can be eliminated.

There has also been a strong focus to build the right infrastructure in partnership, such as the development of the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre in Perth, the International Grains Research Centre on the IA Watson Centre site in Narrabri and the Australian Grains Genebank at Horsham.

Mr Perrett said GRDC’s reputation and standing in the industry would ensure a strong field of candidates for a new Board Chair and he was confident that the right person would be found to lead GRDC through the next phase of growth and positioning for the future, following the current review of governance.

“Whoever my successor is, I know they will be rewarded with a supportive and dynamic skills-based board that will help them achieve the right outcomes for industry, as well as a dedicated and highly motivated group of staff and regional panel representatives who all play a part in keeping GRDC on the right track,” Mr Perrett said.

Mr Perrett’s previous roles include Chairman of the National Rural Advisory Council, which advised the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry on rural issues, including Exceptional Circumstances declarations.

He was also President of the Grains Council of Australia between April 2001 and April 2005. He is a past Chairman of the New South Wales Farmer’s Association Grains Section, and has represented the grains industry at state and federal levels. Keith was the Chairman of the Wheat Research Foundation of New South Wales between 2000 and October 2007.

He was also a member of the Governing Council of the Plant Breeding Institute of the University of Sydney between 1997 and 2007 and Chairman from 2000 to 2007.


Caption: Keith Perrett, a mixed farmer from Gunnedah, will step down as GRDC Board Chair.

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