King Country farmer Martin Coup has been elected to the board of Beef + Lamb NZ to represent the Northern North Island region, replacing former chairman James Parsons, of Tangowahine, who stood down in March. Here he discusses plans to increase levies.

Over the past week I have been consulting with Northland farmers about Beef + Lamb New Zealand's proposal to increase sheep and beef levies.

The reason we are proposing an increase is to accelerate investment in four key areas, namely the environment, positioning this country's red meat as a premium product, biosecurity and to better tell the farmer story.

"Telling our farmers' story is not simply a marketing strategy. It is about retaining a social licence to operate within this country and to better align ourselves with our urban communities and regulatory bodies."

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The organisation is seeking farmers' views on the plan to increase the sheepmeat levy by 10 cents to 70c a head and the beef levy by 80c to $5.20 a head.

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If adopted, the rise would mean an average dairy farm would pay an extra $55 a year and the average sheep and beef farm $260.

Dairy bull beef plays an important role in this region and the recent outbreak of Mycoplasma bovis has highlighted the vulnerability of our industry in the face of a serious biosecurity breach.

While we will be required to pay a separate, yet-to-be-determined levy in response to the M. bovis outbreak, it is an area where we — as an industry — need to lift our game.

As we are seeing, a disease outbreak has huge economic and social implications and we need get better at protecting our businesses, our industry and our economy.

A few weeks ago, Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) launched its environment strategy.

It is an aspirational strategy but one which our industry needs to ensure we the have rock-solid environmental credentials required to leverage off our environment and add value to the grass-fed red meat we are so good at producing.

The need to position our red meat at the premium end of market has never been greater.
Earlier this year, B+LNZ released an alternative proteins report which indicated that alternative protein burgers were likely to reach large-scale manufacturing production in three to five years.

This would particularly impact on our beef exports from cull dairy cows which predominantly go to the US.

We have a window of opportunity to better position NZ grass-fed beef in the market to combat this potential competition and we need to take it.

Telling our farmers' story is not simply a marketing strategy. It is about retaining a social licence to operate within this country and to better align ourselves with our urban communities and regulatory bodies.

To be able to best serve our farmers and help them meet all of these challenges, B+LNZ needs to increase its resources.

As an organisation, we are very excited about the future of this country's red meat industry. There are huge opportunities ahead — we just need to be ready to grab them.

Consultations on this levy are under way and farmers have until tomorrow to provide feedback to B+LNZ about the proposal. See the B+LNZ website for more details.