West Otago farmer Richard Young has stepped down as
chairman of Meat Industry Excellence to seek election to the
board of Silver Fern Farms.
Gisborne sheep and beef farmer Dan Jex-Blake has also
resigned from MIE's executive in a bid to gain a place on the
MIE was formed earlier this year to push for reform in the
red meat industry. Yesterday, Mr Young, who farms an
intensive sheep and cropping property at Tapanui, said the
group had made ''solid progress'' and now had a clear plan of
how to achieve reform.
He was standing for a director's position in response to
requests from farmers to achieve change within the sector. He
continued to support the principles espoused by MIE but had
stood aside to avoid any conflict of interest and to
concentrate on campaigning, he said.
A key first step towards industry consolidation was merging
the two major co-operatives - Silver Fern Farms and Alliance
Group - and that was something he would be campaigning for.
''A merger has been put into the too-hard file. But
Government has made it quite clear that they would facilitate
any initiative supported by the majority of farmers.
''With Government protection, a merger between the two co-ops
is a real possibility and the obvious first step towards
consolidation,'' he said.
His campaign would offer ideas on improving the performance
of Silver Fern Farms but also on an industry strategy to put
the sector on a more sustainable and profitable track.
Commercial skills were not lacking on co-operative boards,
but clear advocacy of farmer interests and a long-term
strategy for industry success, he said.
''The clock is ticking, make no mistake about that.
''Farmers are the ones with the most to win or lose.
''It's time they were more powerfully represented,'' he said.
MIE, under the new leadership of Ohakune farmer and former
vice-chairman John McCarthy, would continue to be a
''powerful force'' in promoting industry reform and he urged
farmers to unite behind the group.
Mr Jex-Blake also supported merging the two major
co-operatives as a first step towards consolidation,
integration and rationalisation.
There was ''no white knight'' and it was time farmers ''stood
up, sorted it themselves and took control of their destiny'',
Farmer relief at being close to, or just above, break-even
returns this year, after below-cost returns last year, showed
how dire the industry's position had become.
''We're watching the gap between sheep and beef and dairying
become a chasm. This is no accident. Dairy farmers had done
the hard yards, got themselves well organised and now they
were a global dairy player that was the envy of the world.
There is no reason why we cannot do the same,'' he said.
MIE has elected West Otago farmer Allan Richardson as
vice-chairman, following Mr McCarthy's election as chairman,
with Tim Coop, from Banks Peninsula, taking Mr Jex-Blake's
place on the executive committee.
Earlier this week, Mr McCarthy urged the major co-operatives
to appoint an independent body to manage the process of
farmer director elections, citing the way dairy farmers ran
elections for Fonterra's board independently through its
Shareholders Council as one possible model.
Both Eoin Garden, from Millers Flat, and David Shaw, from
Clinton, will retire by rotation at Silver Fern Farms' annual
meeting in December. Mr Shaw is standing for re-election,
while Mr Garden, the company's chairman, has decided to stand
At Alliance Group, Murray Taggart, of North Canterbury, who
recently took over as chairman from newly retired Owen Poole,
and Jason Miller (Glencoe) are both retiring by rotation and