The challenges confronting the red meat sector particularly in terms of environmental compliance and alternative synthetic meats and proteins in the marketplace are as big as many farmers will see in their lifetime.

These challenges have highlighted the opportunities Beef +Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) has recognised that our sector needs to quickly reposition itself to take advantage of the opportunities in telling the NZ story regarding our environmentally sustainable free-range grass-fed systems. It's vitally important B+LNZ have the resources to assist farmers into a new era.

B+LNZ have recently gone to their farmers and asked them to vote on a levy increase. I personally believe the proposal to increase the levy is an investment in our future.

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Beef + Lamb proposes increase in levies

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The future for the drystock industry is exciting. There is a huge opportunity for farmers to grow their wealth by recognising the natural capital stocks on their farms, particularly around redesigning farm systems to optimise land use, thus improving their profitability while farming within environmental limits determined by their soil types and landscapes.

Also, the opportunities around the value of their ecosystem services, biodiversity and carbon.

On August 22 B+LNZ announced an increase in the sheep and beef levies. Beef + Lamb New Zealand's Board has decided to proceed with the proposed increase in the sheepmeat and beef levies following significant support from farmers.

From October 1, the levy for sheepmeat will increase 10 cents to 70 cents per head and the beef levy by 80 cents to $5.20 per head. This is 0.4 per cent of the average slaughter value for prime steer/heifer, 0.7 per cent cull dairy cow, 0.7 per cent of lamb, and 1.1 per cent of mutton over the last three years.

The additional levies will be invested in accelerating four key programmes: the international activation of the Taste Pure Nature origin brand and the Red Meat Story, helping the sector lift its environmental performance and reputation, telling the farmer story better, and strengthening B+LNZ's capability to address biosecurity risks.
Andrew Morrison, B+ LNZ chairman, says there was clear support for the proposal with almost 63 per cent of respondents backing an increase.

"We were pleased by the level of interest in the proposal and the amount of detail we received in the submission forms. Outside of a statutory referendum vote, our five-week consultation generated the highest level of engagement for B+LNZ ever and this demonstrates how passionate our farmers are about the sector's prosperity.

"There were also similar levels of support from sheep, cattle and dairy farmers. This is particularly pleasing as B+LNZ takes its responsibilities towards all levy payers extremely seriously."

Almost two-thirds of respondents (64 per cent) indicated support for the strategic direction of B+LNZ, which is an encouraging message, he says.

"Feedback from farmers showed widespread support for the Taste Pure Nature origin brand and the organisation's new environment strategy. However, farmers also encouraged B+LNZ to work collaboratively across the sector to ensure there wasn't a duplication of effort."

While many farmers endorsed the additional investment proposed by B+LNZ, others indicated they were concerned about potential cost pressures for the sector too.

"We're aware that for some farmers their costs are increasing and that there is uncertainty around the impacts of Mycoplasma bovis and what their share of the phased eradication cost will be.

"In making this decision, we've considered farmers' concerns carefully. Even though we had a clear mandate from the 2015 referendum to increase levies, we committed to coming back to farmers to ensure they backed the direction we were heading in. We've listened to the valuable feedback that farmers have given us and we'll be working hard to ensure that the results of this additional investment will deliver benefits for our industry."