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Seize the opportunity, say Meat New Zealand and SheepCo

With the upcoming referendum on meat and wool levies, New Zealand farmers have the opportunity to determine the future of their industry, says Meat New Zealand chairman Jeff Grant. "It is vital for the industry that farmers seize this opportunity."

Speaking to Rural Women New Zealand today, Grant and SheepCo chairman Mike Petersen used the occasion to launch the draft proposals that will be voted on in the meat and wool referendum at the end of July. The draft proposals will be mailed out to farmers who attended the referendum consultation workshops, and other industry stakeholders, Petersen said. "It is important that farmers comment on the draft proposal so that the final proposal properly reflects what they want."

"Voting is vital, because farmer apathy will kill the referendum. The Government has indicated that it will not continue to fund the sheep and beef industries if farmers are not prepared to fund industry good activities themselves," Petersen said.

The draft proposal includes industry good activities that farmers said were important and gave valuable benefit to the industry during the consultation workshops, Grant said. "These areas include trade access, research and development, market development and skills and education. The proposal also seeks comment on areas like the Meat New Zealand reserves and contingency fund."

Petersen said Meat New Zealand and SheepCo's proposals are separate, but he urged farmers to read them in conjunction, as the proposed activities overlap for both meat and wool. "If Meat New Zealand and SheepCo's referendums are both successful, we will be form one new organisation, which will bring meat and wool levies under one roof. This is a logical step for the industry to take, as it will be able to make efficiencies and save levy-payer's money."

Grant said he believes that Meat New Zealand and SheepCo are on the right track with this draft proposal. "But we would like many more farmers’ views before it goes to the vote."

"The proposals give producers a real, collective say in their levy for the first time," Grant said. "Under the Commodity Levies Act, producers will vote every five years to set the levy and what industry-good activities the new organisation spends it on. If the majority do not like what the organisation has done, they can vote it out at the end of the five years."

The closing date for submissions of the draft is 5pm June 3. Grant said. "A summary of submissions and our response will be released on June 11, and the final proposal will be released on June 16. Farmer meetings will be held around the country in July to ensure everyone is fully informed about the proposal before they vote."

Farmers who do not receive a copy of Meat New Zealand's draft proposal, can do so by calling Meat New Zealand on 0800 647 000. Likewise, those who do not receive a copy of SheepCo's draft proposal can do so by calling SheepCo on 0800 699 665.

Farmers will be able to vote from July 31 to August 29 inclusive.

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