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Chairman's Address to NZMFP Council Meeting

Opening Address by Ian Corney, Chairman, NZ Meat and Fibre Producers, Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc.)

It is now six months since I became Chairman. It has been an extremely busy and interesting time for me and I have found it fascinating to be so involved in the issues that this industry faces.

As this is my first Chairman's Address to the Council, I think it is appropriate to share my vision for the next few years with you.

The first part of my vision is what I want to achieve during my term. My key goal is to be active and involved. I want to make a difference for the meat and fibre industry. The best way that I can see to achieve this is by building some key relationships so that we can be involved in important issues at an earlier stage. There are times when being a vocal antagonist is appropriate, however often it can be more constructive to build the relationships to change things from within. I intend to use both approaches where appropriate to convey farmers' perspectives.

This is also an important opportunity to weigh up the role of the Meat and Fibre Council. What do we want to achieve? What is our function? Where do we want to be in a few years time?

I think these are all very important questions given the significant changes in the industry that are currently happening.

The restructuring of the Meat and Wool Boards is the biggest change these organisations have gone through since their formation in 1927 and 1944 respectively.

There is an important role for NZMFP in the short term, to ensure that these changes are implemented satisfactorily for farmers and that the legislative framework meets industry's needs.

With these organisations moving under the CLA framework to become voluntarily funded organisations, they will have to become more accountable to farmers or they will simply fail to gain support in the next referendum.

This raises an important question for NZMFP. Once Meat NZ and the Wool Board become directly accountable to farmers, what role do we have to play?

It is important that we do not duplicate activities that are already being adequately performed. It may be necessary in the longer term if farmers are satisfied with the direction the single organisation is taking, for NZMFP to scale back some of our involvement in this area.

I do however see a continuing role for NZMFP to provide an independent analysis of important issues involving the single organisation. Continuing liaison and communication with the single organisation remains essential.

Federated Farmers' policy development process depends on your input and the input of all our members. To get the best outcome for farmers, we need farmers' involvement.

Food safety, for example, is an area which is heavily regulated and subject to much policy development. I see a continuing role for NZMFP within industry standards bodies, including the Meat Industry Standards Council. It is important that regulators are made aware of the practical consequences to farmers of current and proposed standards. It is also important that farmers are aware of appropriate standards.

I also see an important role for Federated Farmers in the field of biosecurity. This issue is of utmost importance to the industry as biosecurity breaches are potentially the greatest threat to our livelihoods. NZMFP and other Federated Farmers industry groups have a role providing input into biosecurity and National Pest Management Strategy policy areas, monitoring the effectiveness and affordability of strategies and ensuring there are appropriate resources and farmer representation.

Research and development is vital for all of our businesses. NZMFP need to ensure that the sector is receiving an equitable share of public good science funding. This is an area which should not be neglected as our competitors are pouring huge resources into this and we risk being left behind.

Federated Farmers must ensure regulators are made aware of the practical consequences to farmers of current and proposed standards relating to the environment. We have an ongoing role to ensure that responsibility is shared between industry and the Government and that compliance costs are minimised.

Federated Farmers has a role to ensure appropriate recognition of our rights regarding access over our private land. Regulators must be made aware of the consequences policy can have over farm management and security.

Federated Farmers must also ensure that sound principles are implemented to ensure good environmental and animal welfare outcomes while ensuring that farmers retain the right to use practical management practices.

There is a lot of strength within the NZMFP Council. We have the potential and the resources to be heard and make a difference for ourselves and our industry. We have an amazing network that we can utilise for communication purposes. This network must be used so that all meat and fibre producers can become informed and actively share knowledge and experience that will help the industry. It is our collective know-how that can be our greatest strength.

Of course we also have our weaknesses! It is important that we recognise these and try to avoid these pitfalls. The most obvious is apathy. Indifference means that we are not operating to our potential because people are not sharing their knowledge. Indifference will mean that things can slip by that could make a big difference later on. Please try to remain involved and don't ignore these issues.

There are many opportunities for us to grab. I see the chance for us to build our relationship with the Australians and the US as an opportunity to learn from each other's experience. Stronger relations will make us all better off. There are opportunities out there for us to build all sorts of relationships domestically and internationally, which could make our knowledge base bigger and give us more influence when we need it.

Obviously where there are opportunities, there are also threats. We live in a rapidly changing environment. We also live in a country where people in the cities are losing their links to, and knowledge of, country life. People who don't have adequate knowledge are dangerous. This is a threat we must be aware of and address where possible. Of course there other threats for the industry. Some of these stem from the policy decisions our own administration enforces but many others come from international politics. We need to ensure that our Government understands how we operate and the implications these changes and compliance costs have on us so that they can help us - not hinder us.

The NZMFP mission statement is to "improve the farm business operating environment for NZ meat and fibre producers". This statement is one we should all keep in mind. That is our goal in the complicated and changing environment that we live and work in.

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