Southland sheep and beef farmer Russell Drummond has been narrowly voted off the board of Alliance Group.
Drummond, who was elected in 2014, and Ranfurly farmer Dawn Sangster retired by rotation in this year's director elections and both sought re-election.
In the result, announced yesterday at the co-operative's annual meeting in Invercargill, Sangster topped the voting with 23,729,251 votes, followed by Pat McEvedy, of Southbridge, with 20,538,214. Drummond (20,335,533) and Stuart Campbell, of Feilding (10,762,549), were the unsuccessful candidates.
In his chairman's address, Murray Taggart said it had been a challenging farming season across the co-operative's key catchments with extreme drought in the northern and central regions and a very difficult spring and early summer in Southland and South Otago.
The challenging conditions on farm were compounded by global events, while farmer confidence took another hit when the freshwater regulations were released, Taggart said.
"Without substantial amendment, they remain poorly conceived and impractical with little recognition of their economic impact," he said.
This year, Alliance's farmers, employees and customers had negotiated "incredibly challenging times" and he thanked everyone for their support and for "going the extra mile".
Alliance had earlier announced a 2020 financial result of underlying profit of $27.4 million on record turnover of $1.8 billion. A provision of $19.9 million had been recorded to settle a "donning and doffing" claim, leaving a profit of $7.5 million before tax.
Looking forward, world markets remained uncertain, Taggart said. Access to China remained critical to maintaining farm-gate returns until such time as a Covid-19 vaccine resulted in life returning to normal across Alliance's key markets.
While prices had retreated from their highs, returns to farmers remained solid relative to historical pricing.
Alliance was seeking renewal of consents to operate its Mataura plant. According to current estimates, the compliance spend to meet modern environmental standards would run to "tens of millions of dollars".
Investing that amount of money required resource consent certainty over a lengthy period, otherwise the investment could not be justified and "hundreds" of local jobs would be threatened.
"We remain hopeful common sense will prevail and the plant's future can be secured with long-term consents," he said.