Tapanui farmer Richard Young is looking forward to his
tenure on the board of Silver Fern Farms. Photo by Linda
Newly elected Silver Fern Farms director Richard Young
believes the sheep industry needs to celebrate its successes.
Sheep farmers were too hard on themselves; they needed to
celebrate the achievements behind the farm gate, including
the increases in productivity.
But to actually turn those gains into sustainable
profitability was about ''fixing the bit in the middle'' -
the industry structure, he said. Mr Young (45) comfortably
topped the poll in the company's recent director elections,
having stood down as chairman of Meat Industry Excellence to
seek election to the board.
He urged farmers to take a positive attitude and get
motivated to drive change, ''rather than sitting back and
''Ultimately, any change has to be driven by the farmers
themselves. We've got to get off our bums as farmers and
really unite and end up with what we want for our industry .
. . and not what perhaps someone else wants,'' he told the
Otago Daily Times yesterday.
The increased voter turnout in both the Silver Fern Farms and
Alliance Group director elections had given a mandate from
farmers that they wanted change, he said.
Married to Keri, a practice nurse in Gore, and with three
children, Mr Young runs a 300ha intensive sheep and cropping
property at Tapanui.
After attending Otago Boys High School, he completed a
commerce degree in economics at the University of Otago. He
then spent seven years shearing before he went farming.
He has been heavily involved in the Tapanui community,
holding positions in various sporting clubs, both at local
and district level, as well as spending the past six years on
the board of trustees at Tapanui School.
Being on the board of Silver Fern Farms was ''certainly going
to be a challenge'' and he was looking forward to it.
The last nine months had been challenging but he had really
enjoyed his involvement with the push for reform in the
He had met a lot of really good people, who were willing to
help and do what was right for the sector.
Those involved with MIE had made a big commitment and,
although there had been donations, it had been a big
financial commitment and also a cost to their businesses, he
Being cast into the spotlight over the past few months did
not really bother Mr Young and he enjoyed the camaraderie of
working with people. His involvement with MIE was a team
effort and it involved a great group of people, he said.
Following meetings throughout New Zealand seeking a mandate
for change, and some robust debate about what the next moves
would be, the conclusion was reached that they needed to try
to get people on the boards of the co-operatives, as well as
maintaining MIE to drive industry change from the outside.
There was a ''real dearth'' of leadership in the red meat
sector to take on governance roles and he believed that was a
real indictment on the two co-operatives that they had not
promoted people to take on those roles.
While it was a big decision to make to stand for Silver Fern
Farms, what convinced him was that with the profile he had
created, he had become ''quite electable'' and it was a
matter of putting candidates up that were most electable, he
He would not have put his name forward if he did not think he
could give the position full commitment, and he was also
grateful for the support of his wife and children.
It was gratifying to get the level of support he did, but
with that came the expectations that the new MIE-endorsed
directors - he and Dan Jex-Blake on Silver Fern Farms' board,
and Don Morrison on Alliance Group's board - would deliver.
There were going to be ''lots of challenges, lots of
roadblocks'' but they were all ''pretty determined''.
''We wouldn't have put in the effort of the last nine months
to not see this through.
''Whether we get to where we want to go, who knows? But we
certainly won't die wondering,'' Mr Young said.
There was so much potential in the red meat industry ''and
we're just squandering it'', he said.
The co-operatives had to play their part and demonstrate
value creation for shareholders and act in a way they could
be trusted and transparent to shareholders.
It had to be a partnership between farmers and companies to
get the right result. The success of any reform would be
reliant on farmers wanting it, he said.
In an address to the company's annual meeting yesterday, Mr
Young said the clock was ticking and there was not time to
wait five years to get industry reform in place.
A merger between Alliance Group and Silver Fern Farms might
not be an option but some form of analysis around the
benefits of it were an integral part of moving forward, he