Priority to find supreme red meat farmers

The environment is set to become a focus for sheep and beef farmers, so farmers need to learn from the best performers.

Beef and Lamb New Zealand has announced it will commit resources to assist sheep and beef farmers to meet their environmental obligations, as it looks to a levy payer poll in August 2015.

Speaking at Beef and Lamb NZ's annual science seminar at Lincoln University earlier this month, chief executive Scott Champion acknowledged the levy payer-funded body had been slow to react to the onset of climate change.

''We could be accused of being late to the party, but we are there and hopefully we are well dressed.''

Mr Champion and new board chairman James Parsons were the Beef and Lamb NZ representatives on the newly formed Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) board and they acknowledged the apparent lack of feedback to farmers to date.

''To communicate with farmers you've got to have something to communicate.

''The time has been taken up getting the board set up,'' Mr Champion said. ''We are just on the edge of having things to start talking about.''

Mr Parsons said the RMPP was keen to identify the best-performing operators for other farmers to benchmark against.

''Where are the All Blacks in the meat industry? We need to identify them, so we are not just looking at the provincial players but we are looking at world-class players.

''We need about 30 of those guys and then to do some real analysis of them - what are they doing? Why are they world-class? We need to really get under the hood and look at the way they think.''

Mr Champion said Beef and Lamb NZ was joining forces with Federated Farmers to give farmers a stronger voice in the regions on environmental issues.

''We are looking at developing policies which are right for each region.

''We don't have the resources to have people on the ground in every region so sharing our resources with Feds we think is the best approach.''

Beef and Lamb NZ has committed $500,000 to environmental initiatives for the first time, has employed an environment extension manager and has developed a land and environment planning (LEP) toolkit, which was available on Beef and Lamb NZ's website.

LEP workshops were being planned around the country, with four workshops being held in North Canterbury this month.

Northern South Island director Andy Fox said Beef and Lamb NZ would look to commit more funding to environmental initiatives and possibly appoint a second environmental extension manager, should it be successful in next year's referendum.

''There is a lot of noise around this and as sheep and beef farmers we have thought we could go under the radar because of another land user. But the new regulations have changed this and we need to step up,'' Mr Fox said.

- by David Hill 

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