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Meat and wool referendum a resounding 'yes' on all counts

New Zealand farmers have voted resoundingly to continue funding red meat and wool industry-good activities through a compulsory levy under the Commodity Levies Act 1990, and to form a single meat and wool organisation. A clear majority also voted to retain reserves and continue investing in biotechnology.

Meat New Zealand chairman, Jeff Grant said: "The vote result is a strong mandate for the single organisation. The turnout was good, and the clear majorities on all counts show farmers fully support the industry-good proposals."

The industry-good activities include trade access, research and development, and market development for red meat, and education and training.

On weighted stock numbers, 76% and 77% voted for the sheepmeat and beef proposals respectively, 72% for wool, and 67% for goatmeat. SheepCo chairman, Mike Petersen said: "These results are a clear mandate for industry related activities."

Petersen and Grant said the results showed farmers had fully endorsed the concept of the single organisation. Petersen said: "Right from the start we had a strong message from farmers that they wanted a single organisation with a different approach, and 80% of them supported it in the vote."

"This is a fresh start for industry-good." said Grant. "Farmers wanted a change, and the single organisation will give them that - it has to be more accountable to farmers, with annual consultation about the levy rate. The five-yearly farmer vote under the CLA is the ultimate test."

The Commodity Levies Act (CLA) votes for sheepmeat, beef, goatmeat and wool, were successful on both a one-farm-one-vote count, and on a weighted stock number count. The CLA requires that both thresholds are passed by a simple majority before a levy order can be applied for.

The votes in favour are as follows (given as one-farm-one-vote, then weighted stock number): sheepmeat 72% and 76%; beef 74% and 77%; wool 68% and 72%, goatmeat 67% and 67%.

Three additional questions asked of red meat producers were also successful on both counts. The questions were on establishing the single organisation, keeping reserves, and investing in biotechnology.

The votes in favour are as follows (given as one-farm-one-vote, then weighted stock number): single organisation 77% and 80%; reserves 68% and 70%; biotechnology 69% and 72%.

Grant said: "Reserves provide an important safety net for farmers. $52 million is set aside as an emergency fund in case we need to restore consumer confidence in red meat for any reason. The reserves also provide a way to invest in biotechnology now, to deliver benefit to the next generation of farmers."

Grant said he was satisfied with the turnout. "Historically the CLA hasn't had really high numbers participating. So I was pleased to hear that farmers representing over sixty percent of national stock numbers had voted." Of the 33,714 farmers sent voting papers, 37% (12,591) cast votes, representing 62% of total production. This represents 67% of sheep numbers, 58% of beef, 23% of dairy cattle, and 68% of goats.

The referendum was managed by an independent company, Ltd, and an independent scrutineer, a Justice of the Peace, reviewed the process.

The next step is for the single organisation to apply to the Minister for a levy order. Although this may take some time, the levy order is not planned to be effective until July 2004. In the interim the current meat and wool levy collection arrangements continue under existing legislation.

For referendum tables go here:

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