Farmers back red meat industry reform call

Last updated 06:29 20/12/2013
Pressure on: MIE chairman John McCarthy.
Fairfax NZ
PRESSURE ON: MIE chairman John McCarthy wants farmers to step up to push for red meat reform.

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Sheep and beef farmers are being challenged to put more heat on leaders for a new red meat model after the success of three reform group-linked farmers gaining seats on the Alliance Group and Silver Fern Farms (SFF) boards.

The election of Gore farmer Don Morrison to the Alliance board and Richard Young from Gore and Dan Jex-Blake from Gisborne to the SFF board as farmer- elected directors has provided farmers with hope that change will happen to reverse low returns. The trio were leaders of the Meat Industry Excellence (MIE) reform group.

MIE chairman John McCarthy said farmers needed to step up the pressure for reform in the meat industry.

The industry needed a new model delivering profitability and improved returns, he said.

"The election results and a strong lift in voter turnout have sent a clear message to the boards, the Government, and the rest of the industry that farmers want change. The next step is for both co-op boards to come together to put forward full and open information about the risks and rewards of consolidation."

He said the most heartening aspect of MIE's campaign had been the rise in participation of co-operative shareholders in the elections.

Also encouraging was the voting in favour by Alliance shareholders for a resolution asking their board to appoint Fonterra director John Monaghan to the boardroom table.

Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre chairwoman Jeanette Maxwell said the increased voting turnout was encouraging.

"This tells me next year will be a massive one for the red meat sector because farmers are sending a clear signal that they want forward momentum.

"I pledge Federated Farmers support in delivering this, as well as on the Red Meat Profit Partnership."

Federated Farmers released a detailed options paper for red meat industry reform this week.

Maxwell said it had become clear that doing nothing was no longer an option for the industry.

There was much interest in Alliance's non-binding special resolution for Monaghan as an independent director, she said.

McCarthy said he hoped the Alliance board listened to the request of shareholders to appoint Monaghan.

"Even though the resolution was non-binding, the Alliance board needs to very carefully consider the request from its shareholders."

In the Alliance election, 48.83 per cent of eligible votes were returned in a postal ballot, compared to 25 per cent in 2012.

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SFF's turnout from a total of 5049 eligible voters rose from 16.7 per cent in the last election to 26.76 per cent.

McCarthy said farmer participation was at the core of MIE's strategy and co- operatives were the key to building a better industry around a model to lift incomes and build wealth in high- performing assets.

He said SFF's acknowledgment that farmers had spoken and the co-operative wanted to play its part in advancing reform would be appreciated.

SFF chairman-elect Rob Hewett told farmers after the election that the high turnout reflected the understanding of shareholders for a need for real reform across the industry.

The election platform of candidates with MIE links was aligned to the SFF board's own vision and the next step was to see more farmers exclusively supplying their co-operatives, he said.

For the Alliance election re-elected chairman Murray Taggart received 23,540,916 votes and Morrison 20,555,396, while the SFF contest was won by Young on 36,155,094 votes and Jex-Blake on 25,511,166.

- The Press


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