Farmer support sought in vote

Collaboration in the  red meat sector is creating  excitement. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Collaboration in the red meat sector is creating excitement. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Sheep and beef farmers will be asked to vote to support the farmer contribution for a $65 million programme which the Ministry for Primary Industries says will ''transform'' the delivery of knowledge and capability within the red meat sector.

Up to $32.4 million from the ministry's Primary Growth Partnership Fund (PGP) has been approved for the Collaboration for Sustainable Growth programme.

It aims to ensure producers have access to and are able to effectively use the best-available farm and business management practices by addressing gaps in technology transfer and ensuring stronger co-ordination between organisations and individuals working with farmers.

The seven-year programme involves industry participants Affco, Alliance Group, Anzco Foods, ANZ Bank, Beef and Lamb New Zealand, Blue Sky Meats, Deloitte, Progressive Meats, Rabobank and Silver Fern Farms who, following approval and contracting processes, will match the ministry's investment and establish a joint venture entity to undertake the programme.

The contribution from farmers is through Beef and Lamb NZ and will total up to $2.8 million per annum over seven years. The vote, to be held alongside Beef and Lamb's annual meeting on March 8, will allow the programme to progress.

Beef and Lamb NZ will be seeking farmer support during the coming weeks to invest the funds from a combination of New Zealand Meat Board reserves, Beef and Lamb NZ reserves and levy funds.

While New Zealand Meat Board approval and support was also required through a prescribed NZMB process, no levy increase would be required to support the programme, Beef and Lamb NZ chairman Mike Petersen said.

Wayne McNee.
Wayne McNee.
Federated Farmers Otago meat and fibre section chairman Simon McAtamney said the ''real positive'' was that all the major meat companies were working together with the project. Hopefully, that would lead to even more collaboration in a fragmented sheep and beef industry.

''The group must also keep focus on the word profitability and not get it mixed up with productivity, as for many sheep and beef farmers lifestyle choices are still more important than productivity,'' Mr McAtamney said.

Silver Fern Farms supported the programme, contingent on the backing of farmers, and would be guided by farmer wishes through the vote, chief executive Keith Cooper said.

''As this is a programme that will be paid for by all farmers and likely only be utilised by some, it is matter of where farmers wish their Meat Board reserves and [Beef and Lamb NZ] levy funds to be directed,'' he said.

MPI director-general Wayne McNee said the programme would transform the delivery of knowledge and capability within the sheep and beef sector.

''Importantly, this is the most comprehensive collaboration of its type ever seen in the red meat sector, and the opportunities are very exciting,'' he said.

Dr Scott Champion, chairman of the programme's steering group and Beef and Lamb NZ chief executive, said the programme was built on the findings of the red meat sector strategy and would deliver ''significantly'' on the strategy's sector best-practice theme.

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