New Zealand’s sheep and beef farmers are about to vote on the future for their levy-funded organisation.
Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) launched the 2015 Sheepmeat and Beef Levy Referendum proposal at the organisation’s Farmer Council conference in Wellington this morning. The conference brings together 100 farmers who make up the seven farmer councils nationwide that provide grassroots input to the organisation.
Activities for the next levy cycle between 2016-2022 were outlined. Sheepmeat and beef producers, including dairy farmers through their cull cows, will have the chance to continue funding activities and programmes for the next six years when voting opens on 8 August.
B+LNZ chairman, James Parsons said the Commodity Levies Act requires farmers to vote to continue new levy orders every six years and a ‘yes’ vote will enable B+LNZ’s activities to carry on. A ‘no’ vote would mean that B+LNZ would be wound down and all of the programmes, including those with allied organisations like meat processors, AgResearch and others, would end.
Parsons said the proposed levy rates from 2016 to 2017 are to remain unchanged at 60 cents per sheep and $4.40 per cattle beast. Under the Commodity Levies Act, a maximum levy must also be set for the six-year levy cycle. For sheep, this will be set at 75 cents per head and beef $5.50 per head. If farmers wanted more investment in certain areas, then the maximum levy provides some flexibility within the next six years. However, there would need to be very strong farmer support for any adjustment from the current levies beyond 2017.
“We’re proposing a programme that will continue the momentum of the past six years, carrying on activities that farmers have told us are important. For example 17,269 people attended 356 farmer events last year to learn something new to take back to their farming business, so we’ll be building on that. One hundred and thirty B+LNZ project farm sites tested and trialled techniques and tools to improve profitability or save money and that is another investment from which farmers benefited. The organisation’s market access activities alongside government have achieved tariff savings of $161 million in 2014 and that work remains an important activity. So does our support for bright young people seeking a career in our sector,” he said.
“Farmers have also told us they want their organisation to have a stronger voice with government and policy makers in the areas of health and safety, the environment, and on other regulatory issues which impact their farming business. They want to see sensible and workable rules and regulations and we will be doing more work in these areas over the next six years, alongside others in the sector.”
Proposed continuing B+LNZ activities will cover in extension, research and development, market development, administration, information and analysis, market access, environment and people and capability.
Parsons said in previous referenda farmers had voted to have an organisation that was their own, had their backs, and spoke up on important issues that affected their ability to get on with what they love – farming.
“Farmers created B+LNZ to look after their interests and have their backs – so they could focus on their farming businesses. I’m encouraging farmers across New Zealand to have their say and try and attend one of the 53 regional roadshow meetings being held throughout New Zealand between 12-28 August. They can view the calendar at beeflambnz.com/referendum.”
While dairy farmers have not had a high turnout in previous votes, Parsons said he thought the opportunity to work together had created a “whole lot of volatility and also opportunities.”
Parsons said the organisation was keen to lift its engagement with the dairy farmers in coming years, communicating what it does and to get feedback.
Voting opens on 8 August 2015, the last day for postal votes is 9 September and the referendum officially closes on 10 September 2015 at 5pm. Separate votes are held for each of the sheepmeat and beef levies and to be successful they must pass on two counts – one farmer, one vote and a vote weighted by stock numbers.
Farmers must be enrolled to receive voting packs and they can check they’re enrolled by calling 0800 BEEFLAMB (0800 233 352) or register online at beeflambnz.com/register.
The 2015 Sheepmeat and Beef Levy Referendum proposal can be viewed at beeflambnz.com/referendum.
Watch James Parsons explaining what it’s all about …