Last year, the shiny suits and directors at Silver Fern Farms (SFF) said the co-op was in crisis and faced receivership or liquidation.

They now say last year was a good year, and this 180-degree about-turn condemns them out of their own mouths.

They admit they were not telling the truth last year, so who's to know they are telling the truth now?

So through gritted teeth, another vote takes place on August 12 about selling out to the Chinese.

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What happens is important because the East Coast is home to 19 per cent of the nation's beef cattle.

We can add about 15 per cent of the national flock and 9 per cent of the deer herd.

Meanwhile, SFF has plants at Frasertown near Wairoa as well as Hastings. Those asking hard questions of this shonky deal have been attacked.

After all, why should anyone worry when half of a co-op worth $627 million will be sold for just $50m?

This is not the $261m figure many have sucked down like Kool-Aid and for those who think that is wrong, reread page 19 of 2015's Shareholder Information Pack: "$50 million of the cash to be invested by Shanghai Maling will be distributed to the co-operative which, in turn, may distribute this to the co-operative's shareholders as it sees fit."

So what's the truth about this near mythical $261m figure?

It will only be invested after Shanghai Maling gets control of the hiring/firing of the CEO; approval of the annual budget and cash flow forecast; the setting of the strategic plan; and whether there will be a dividend payment.

If that's not enough, the chair will be appoint-ed by Shanghai Maling and that person will hold the casting vote.

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To keep face $261m may well come into Silver Fern Farms, but what if the Shanghai Maling-appointed directors propose that $254m be reinvested into a new company in China, something like Silver Fern Farms Shanghai Limited?

The co-op appointed directors will stamp their feet but they'll be as useful as a milk bucket under a bull.

Page 19 of the 2015 Shareholder Information Pack also contains this gem: "A further $7 million of the cash to be invested by Shanghai Maling will be distributed to the co-operative to meet the co-operative's directors' fees and related costs into the future ..." What sort of slush fund is this?

The shiny suits are seriously nervous because shareholders are waking up to the truth.

Remember how Silver Fern's CEO, chairman and a gaggle of experts all said June 30, 2016, was a deadline set in concrete? Its CEO, Dean Hamilton, said that the Chinese had two compensation angles if June 30 wasn't met.

On June 9, just 21 days before the alleged drop-dead date, he told industry commentator Alan Barber that missing the date "would be an extremely serious event ..." Yet it was quietly slipped back to September 30 with hardly a mutter, murmur or syllable from the media.

That includes the sudden resignation of Silver Fern Farm's chief financial officer not even a week after the extension.

The August 12 vote gives Silver Fern shareholders the means to put the shiny suits in their place.

They have a second chance to build a red-meat industry deserving of what they work so hard to produce. Much of New Zealand's future, as in the past, is in food but will only get the benefit of that if we remain in control and retain the wealth from the added value food processing.

This is the owners of SFF's last chance to preserve one of New Zealand's great assets in New Zealand hands for present and future farmers.

Management and board have dodged every debate on their behaviour with us. We trust farmers to now know why that was the case.

- Winston Peters is the leader of New Zealand First and Member of Parliament for Northland.

- Views expressed here are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's. Email: editor@hbtoday.co.nz