Monday, April 22, 2024

Feds set for structure review

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Federated Farmers has set the ball rolling to review its governance and representation structure.
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Federated Farmers national president Andrew Hoggard says the organisation’s current board structure may not be fit for current purpose.

Federated Farmers has set the ball rolling to review its governance and representation structure.

Driven by national president Andrew Hoggard, the review will investigate whether the current board structure is fit for purpose.

He says the existing structure of seven board members has remained largely the same for the past 25 years, but in that time many things have changed.

“It’s time to look at how we still do things and whether it is still the best way,” Hoggard said.

“We get suggestions coming to us and rather than look at little changes here and there, it’s timely to look at it as a whole with a fresh set of eyes.”

Federated Farmers is governed by a national board and a national council.

The national board meets regularly and comprises the president, vice-president, three industry group chairpersons and two national board members at large.

The national council meets twice a year and comprises the national board, with representatives from both the provinces and industry groups.

Policy is member-driven – members’ views are canvassed by staff and elected representatives who formulate submissions that help local and central government decision-making.

The federation’s aim is to add value to the business of farming for its members, while encouraging sustainability through best practice.

“This governance and representation structure may not be the right fit for this anymore,” he said.

“We have people who would love to contribute on many policy issues but aren’t so interested in the governance side.”

Likewise, he says there are people who would make excellent governors but are not so keen to be policy spokespeople.

“That’s just one of the challenges we have identified,” he said.

“The way to find out is to commission a review and see what suggestions we get from that.”

The national council has agreed to a review, with a committee in the process of being established.

The review committee will be spearheaded by an independent chair, with two independent members who currently hold no formal role within Feds also being sought for the review process.

Two Feds board representatives and two provincial Feds representatives will complete the seven-strong review committee.

“The attributes we are looking for are strong governance or representation experience,” he said.

Looking ahead to what the review may determine, it could be that a new structure will see a mix of Feds and independent directors.

“More often most boards have specialist roles across audit and risk, accounting and finances, communications, marketing and the like,” he said.

“All seven of us (presently) are farmers – yes, professionals in our own right, but not professionals with the expertise for many of the governance responsibilities.

“We need a diverse range of backgrounds to do that (governance); it’s important.”

The same applies to the roles of the organisation’s spokespeople.

“Do we want to lock that up?” he asked.

“Historically only board members have been spokespeople – is that the best way going forward?

“There are individuals who are exceptional in specific topics with roles outside the board and it could be that we need to put additional structure in place to encompass that.”

It may be that in the end suggestions will only necessitate a couple of tweaks.

“And that’s cool, if that is the case, but we need to look outside with fresh eyes and do this right for the future,” he said.

Depending on the review outcome, Hoggard anticipates a discussion document will be formulated over the coming months in time for presentation to the Federated Farmers next annual meeting in July 2022.

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