Setback for remit seeking to tighten farmers' grip

19:16, Nov 16 2012

No shareholder council backing for a remit on farmer control, writes Andrea Fox . 

The Fonterra Shareholder Council will not be backing a farmer remit at next month's annual meeting which tries to lock in future farmer control of the dairy giant.

The decision by the 34-member farmer watchdog council is a blow for shareholder and former Federated Farmers dairy chairman Lachlan McKenzie and seconder, South Island farmer Ann Jones, who seek constitutional change to cement farmer-director numbers and farmer voting rights on the board of New Zealand's biggest company.

However, the council did not use its power of representation of Fonterra's 10,500 farmer-shareholders to veto the remit, chairman Ian Brown said.

That meant the remit would still be presented to the annual meeting at the Mystery Creek Events Centre, near Hamilton, on December 17.

The McKenzie and Jones resolution seeks farmer support for the Fonterra constitution to state unequivocally that the board shall have no fewer than nine farmer-elected directors, and that only farmer-directors can elect the chairman of Fonterra, who must be a farmer.

Brown said the council was not recommending support for it, primarily because it would pre-empt a governance review currently under way by Fonterra directors and shareholder councillors.

The resolution from McKenzie and Jones follows the Waikato Times revealing last month that an option in the review was for farmer-director numbers to be cut to eight and independent, non-farmer directors increased to five. News of the option further unnerved farmer opponents of Fonterra's narrowly voted-in Trading Among Farmers (Taf) scheme.

McKenzie said the resolution simply sought to underline what farmers had been promised by Fonterra's leaders - that Taf would not threaten farmers' continued 100 per cent control and ownership of Fonterra.