Do we need Beef+Lamb NZ?
On June 1, Beef +Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) sent out the 2021 sheepmeat and beef levy referendum voting packs to farmers who have until July 9 to vote.
Recently there has been a lot of commentary through the rural media questioning the value B+LNZ provides to sheep, beef and dairy farmers who pay at the time of slaughter $5.20 per head cattle and 70 cents per head sheep.
As a sheep and beef farmer and a member of the B+LNZ Mid Northern Farmer Council, I would like to give my opinion as to why we all should be supporting B+LNZ.
If I think about my farming business and how it's evolved I can say with hand on my heart, that engaging with B+LNZ extension activities and tapping into their resources has been a huge part of transforming my farming business into an enterprise that I am extremely proud of.
I feel I'm in the driver's seat, ahead of the game and confident that any pending regulation won't impact my ability to continue to farm sustainably for generations to come.
There are many farmers I associate with who feel the same way because they too have engaged with B+LNZ and are using the latest technology and information to drive their farming businesses, the payback from the levies we pay to B+LNZ has been huge.
B+LNZ, like any organisation, doesn't always get it right, but the model that drives the organisation can quickly rectify things. The B+LNZ model is driven by seven farmer councils across New Zealand.
B+LNZ ethos is "By Farmers For Farmers", which means the organisation is neither driven by the top nor the bottom, but driven by collaboration in the middle.
What many farmers might not realise is the huge amount of work B+LNZ does offshore negotiating market access, tariffs and trade agreements. This work amounts to tens of millions of dollars coming back into farmers' pockets.
B+LNZ also does a huge amount of advocacy work on farmers' behalf trying to ensure policy design is fit for purpose so that we, as farmers, can meet the demands coming at us around freshwater, climate change and biodiversity.
This work flies under the radar.
The advocacy work B+LNZ does involves dealing with central government, its agencies, and NGOs. Dealing with Wellington bureaucrats is often tedious and time-consuming but B+LNZ needs to be at the table otherwise we as farmers will be on the menu.
I wonder how many farmers eligible to vote, have taken time to follow the progress of "Taste Pure Nature", a market initiative launched over the last couple of years in both North America and China by B+LNZ's Nick Beeby and his team.
Customers around the world are looking for safe, naturally raised beef and lamb from farms in New Zealand that meet sustainable and ethical standards under the NZ Farm Assurance Programme.
Taste Pure Nature tells our unique story about our free-range, antibiotic-free, grass-fed beef and lamb. The future of the Taste Pure Nature brand is exciting, it's been a catalyst to bring all the processors together under one brand.
I believe Taste Pure Nature could end up being the Zespri of our meat industry.
Our dairy farmer cousins contribute 15 per cent to the total B+LNZ levy take.
So what value do they get from paying levies for their cull cows and other classes of stock at the processor?
Here are three reasons that come to mind:
ヲAs mentioned earlier B+LNZ's ability to negotiate market access agreements are worth tens of millions of dollars to farmers including dairy.
ｦAlternative proteins are a big risk for manufacturing beef which includes cull dairy cows. As mentioned above Taste Pure Nature is aimed to differentiate New Zealand's grass-fed beef from alternative proteins and grain-fed product and add value to manufacturing beef.
ｦThe processing of 4-day-old bobby calves is under the spotlight by animal rights groups. B+LNZ is working closely with DNZ to look to the future, aiming for zero bobbies, this involves researching alternative options by examining the whole supply chain.
Dairy farmers will also question why they are paying levies to both DNZ and B+LNZ when they were at loggerheads during the Waikato PC1 Hearings' process and now at the Environment Court.
From my own experience being involved in that process as chairman of Farmers 4 Positive Change, there were many dairy farmers, mainly organic and system one and two, who supported B+LNZ's stance on "No Grandparenting of Nitrogen". They were looking for fair, equitable and sustainable solutions on how we as farmers use nitrogen in the future.
In more recent times He Waka Eka Noa (HWEN) - Climate Change Action Partnership, has brought B+LNZ, DNZ and Federated Farmers closer together.
They in fact need to find fair and equitable solutions to the Climate Change discussion or else the Government will step in and tax farmers at the processor which none of us want.
Right now, we as farmers need B+LNZ, DNZ and the Feds to work together.
At the same time, they need us as farmers to trust what they are doing, they also need us as farmers, if necessary, to join the front-line and push back hard against policy design that, I believe is out of balance with the economics, environment, and the wellbeing of our communities.
We as farmers and industry bodies need to look after each other and stick together to ensure we find solutions to the challenges ahead.
I urge you to vote yes to supporting the sheepmeat and beef commodity levy.
We are all "stronger working together".