Meat industry vote 'will not be ignored'

ROB TIPA
Last updated 11:32 24/03/2014
James Parsons
Fairfax NZ
VOTE PROMISE: James Parsons, chairman of Beef+Lamb New Zealand, says votes in a recent referendum on a wool levy will not be ignored.

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Sheep farmer votes in favour of funding a meat industry ginger group and a referendum on a wool levy still have to be approved by Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

However, chairman James Parsons has indicated the votes will not be ignored.

The remits received strong support in polls taken at the organisation's annual meeting.

Farmers voted 61.5 per cent in favour of funding the Meat Industry Excellence group and 67.8 per cent for a wool levy referendum, based on stock numbers of the farmers who voted. However, voter turnout was low, with approximately 16 per cent of all stock numbers in favour of MIE funding.

But Parsons said the low vote was not unexpected and had given his board a strong indication of farmers' views.

"The important thing is it is a significant cross-section of the sector and in sufficient numbers for us to gauge what farmers are thinking.

"At the end of the day we are a grassroots organisation and we are not going to ignore farmer opinion on (these issues)."

MIE is believed to be seeking $200,000 in funding. Beef + Lamb has more than $500,000 of remaining wool levy funds for a referendum.

Parsons said discussions still were needed with both MIE and the Wool Levy Review Group and were likely to focus around the conditions of funding.

He commended the MIE group for its efforts and said dialogue with it in the last few weeks had been very constructive.

"That's positive and I hope it continues."

MIE chairman John McCarthy said he was "utterly chuffed" by the vote.

He said the vote would mean Beef + Lamb could now contribute to the reform group's meeting and travel costs, expenses largely carried by its own members and supporters since it was formed 12 months ago. To date Beef + Lamb had contributed about $40,000 to those costs.

McCarthy said many of MIE's members had never claimed travel expenses.

"We're still volunteers. We're still doing God's work for the meat industry," he said.

"What it does do is it signals there is a farmer wish that they participate through the vehicle of MIE beyond the farm gate and (Beef + Lamb's) constitution has precluded them from doing that."

McCarthy said he was looking forward to working with Beef + Lamb and Federated Farmers to achieve greater profitability.

"I think this gives us a huge ability to work with Beef + Lamb and with all other stakeholders in the industry, because we don't want to waste the investment we've made in the red meat sector strategy document."

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