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Farmers have the future of Beef + Lamb New Zealand in their hands.
Every six years, farmers vote on whether they want the industry-good organisation to continue to exist, funded by compulsory levies on sheepmeat and beef (including dairy-beef).
Voting opened last week and all livestock farmers registered on B+LNZ’s electoral roll will be sent a voting pack. Voting will close at noon on July 9.
Farmers are being asked to vote on three things: the first two questions relate to whether B+LNZ continues to exist. Depending on whether they own sheep or cattle (or both), they are being asked whether compulsory levies on sheepmeat and/or beef should remain.
A "no" result on either the sheepmeat or beef levy would mean all B+LNZ activity in that area would stop. If "no" on both, B+LNZ would be wound up.
Sheep farmers were also asked to support a 5c increase in the sheepmeat levy rate to 75c under the current levy order.
A statement from B+LNZ said it regularly surveyed farmers about what it thought the organisation’s priorities should be.
‘The message is clear that [they] want us to continue advocating for [their] interests. Most recently, advocacy topped the list of B+LNZ’s different functions at 91%, although not at the expense of other areas of focus, it said.
"We’ve also got the message that we need to work with other industry groups to ensure farmers’ voices are heard. We are, and we’re committed to continue building on this, while ensuring the perspective of red meat producers is strongly represented," it said.
Recently, farmer group Groundswell New Zealand said it was very concerned to hear of "rumours being circulated around farming circles" that it was trying to undermine farming levy-collecting industry bodies. That might have arisen with the B+LNZ vote.
Groundswell spokesman Bryce McKenzie said the group was "firmly in favour" of the excellent work both B+LNZ and DairyNZ did conveying practical applications of innovations to farmers. If levy votes were lost, it could be quite damaging to farming.
"Our concern has always been in the advocacy area of all our industry bodies to the Government and, for this to be effective, Groundswell NZ believes we need a united voice and preferably one voice covering all rural sectors," Mr McKenzie said.
Groundswell was not interested in filling that advocacy space but would "firmly convey the position of grassroots rural people to our rural advocacy voice".