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After a varied career, Mr Manning recently joined NZPork as national industry support manager based in Christchurch.
He grew up on a sheep, beef, cropping and Clydesdale horse farm in Wairarapa, completed a science degree at the University of Canterbury, has worked in project management roles for DairyNZ and the former Crop & Food Research (now Plant & Food) and was a research manager at B+LNZ.
"I’ve done a little bit of everything. The only things I haven’t done are poultry and arable.
"While I know all farms are different, I have an appreciation that there’s common threads. And everyone who works at the levy-funded organisations is passionate about what they do and wants to do the best for their levy-payers," he said.
That variety of experiences should put Mr Manning in good stead for his new role, in which he will work closely with New Zealand’s 93 commercial pig farms to support them with advice on immigration, migrant labour, health and safety, vocational education and employment.
The role also involved supporting the collaboration, communication and education across the pork industry "from paddock to plate".
Mr Manning was looking forward to meeting farmers around the region and learning about their challenges, so he could be a voice for them.
"I’m still getting my head around it, but there are a lot of uncertainties, so it’s about how do we help them and work with government to get the best outcome," he said.
One challenge facing the pork industry was competing against imported meat, which was often subject to lower environmental, animal welfare and safety standards. NZPork has called for mandatory country of origin labelling to assist local consumers.
"We want consumers to know they can make an informed choice. We are here to represent our farmers and we are proud of our farmers. We are being held to a higher standard and at the end of the day it’s up to the consumer.
"It’s the same across any industry. Our farmers are passionate about their animals and they’re passionate about their product," he said.
Sourcing quality staff had always been a challenge, made worse by Covid-19 border restrictions, though on a smaller scale compared to other industries.
There were positives and challenges of working for a smaller industry body, Mr Manning said.
"In this role there’s 93 farms instead of thousands of farms. I think it’s great, because you’ve got the opportunity to get to know people and their situations. But it does mean we’ve got a smaller budget, so you’ve got to be a bit more nimble and focused."
NZPork supported an industry which produced 637,280 pigs a year, with two-thirds of the pigs processed in the South Island. Canterbury was the country’s largest pig producing region and Patoa Farms, at Medbury, near Hawarden, was one of the largest in the country.