Farmers encouraged to vote for growth

PENNY WARDLE
Last updated 16:05 22/02/2013

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Forty Marlborough farmers and industry representatives yesterday heard about a programme which its promoters promised would lift their profitability if they voted to commit funding.

Voting is open on a Beef + Lamb New Zealand remit to commit $19.7 million of Meat Board and Beef + Lamb reserves to the $65m red meat sector collaboration for sustainable growth project.

Industry partners, including meat companies and banks, have committed $13.2m, and the Government $32.5m through its primary growth partnership.

Ward farmer Doug Avery likened the programme to handholding needed to lift farming out of its financial doldrums.

"Farmers who are willing to do that will thrive. Others will have to be cut away," Mr Avery told the meeting.

The loss of these farmers to the industry represented opportunities for smarter farmers, he said.

Beef + Lamb farmer director Andy Fox said the programme would use existing information to lift the game and bottom line of underperforming farmers. The aim was to get consistent messages across from people already driving into farm gates, not employing lots of new people in branded jerseys, he said.

"We are not asking farmers to write out a cheque. They have already done that."

Beef + Lamb strategy manager Kelvin Whall said his organisation's intention was that the information gathered during the programme would be available to everybody involved, unlike other commercially sensitive programmes. Ideally, this would include reviewing benchmarks to make sure progress on projects measured up to the goals, but he was not making any promises.

The project focused on areas farmers could influence, he said. For example, farmers talked about the dollars they were paid per lamb, when the gap between best and worst was only about 3 per cent. More significant was the roughly 135 per cent gap between lamb weight produced and dollars paid per hectare.

Two major projects would focus on efficient livestock procurement and transport and benchmarking between farmers, he said.

Awatere Valley farmer Greg Harris said there was already a lot of information out there for farmers, but they had not had the financial ability to make the changes.

"The financial climate has not been very supportive."

The $200m loss made by the meat industry in the past year had hurt a lot of people, and the problems which led to this were what needed to be addressed, he said.

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- The Marlborough Express

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