Levy's future to be put to the vote

The Herbage Seedgrowers' Subsection of Federated Farmers is organising a referendum to determine whether it continues to collect a levy on all ''Commons'' and uncertified herbage seed from growers.

The levy, call the Non-Proprietary Cultivar (NPC) levy, is paid by growers based on the number of kilograms of ryegrass and white clover cultivar seed they grow.

The referendum will run from April 30 until the end of May and papers will be sent out in the post or available online.

Herbage sub-section executive secretary Nick Hanson said while most of the herbage seed grown in New Zealand was owned and grown by commercial companies who issued contracts to a few growers, several public cultivars are available for anyone to use.

''These are the publicly-owned `Commons' and the levy is collected in order to maintain those varieties to ensure they continue to be available to growers in New Zealand,'' Mr Hanson said.

''There is no restriction on who can grow them, and that is what sets them apart from the proprietary ryegrass and clovers.''

Commons cultivars included Grasslands Nui, Moata, Manawa, Tama, Ruanui, Huia and Pawera.

He said it cost money to ensure the seed stock was maintained and to ensure it did not get mixed with other cultivars or genetic material.

They paid AgResearch to do the work for them and ensure the base material was available to growers, at a cost of about $135,000 to the industry.

He said most of that cost came from the levy, paid by about 300 growers. The levy referendum is held every six years under the Commodity Levies Act 1990.

Chairman Hugh Wigley, of Waimate, said the levy was important and urged growers to vote.

''The bottom line is without this levy, the Commons would not be available,'' he said.