Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) launched consultation on a proposal to increase sheepmeat and beef levies to accelerate investment in a range of key programmes on June 7.

B+LNZ is seeking farmers' views on the plan to increase the sheepmeat levy by 10 cents to 70 cents per head and the beef levy by 80 cents to $5.20 per head.

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

The additional levies would be invested in 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.

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B+LNZ Chairman Andrew Morrison says sheep and beef farmers are facing unprecedented challenges including environmental pressures, trade issues, the rise of alternative proteins, biosecurity incursions, and eroding public confidence in farming.

"But there are strong opportunities for beef and lamb exports if we are able to tell our story. There is growing demand globally for grass fed, hormone free and antibiotic free red meat that consumers are willing to pay a premium for.

"Following feedback from farmers about what is important and what support farmers need, B+LNZ has developed a new strategy, re-organised our structure and refocused resources to combat these challenges, and realise our opportunities.

"So far this year, we have launched a range of initiatives aimed at positioning the sector for the future including a report on alternative proteins, the Taste Pure Nature origin brand and Red Meat Story and a new Environment Strategy.

"However, given the scale and speed of change, we believe a modest increase to the sheepmeat and beef levies is necessary so that we can accelerate these programmes. We see a window of opportunity to get ahead of the curve in these areas if we increase our investment now."

"This includes investing more in the roll-out of Taste Pure Nature. The additional funds would be used to support greater targeted promotion in key markets such as the United States and China to capture more value for farmers before alternative proteins gain traction and our competitors cement their positions.

"There is also risk of significant regulatory change in the environment space. This investment will give farmers the tools to make on-farm changes, measure environmental progress and provide evidence for telling their story. This will help us engage with government to ensure they develop sensible policies."

The M. Bovis incursion and phased eradication programme is a concern for farmers and B+LNZ has lifted its support to farmers with additional resources and advice.

"Alongside this response, it is clear that extra investment is required to strengthen B+LNZ's capability to better assess biosecurity risks, drive improvements in NAIT, and help farmers improve their on-farm biosecurity systems.

Mr Morrison says the additional investment being sought by B+LNZ falls within the range supported by farmers in the B+LNZ Commodity Levies Act referendum in 2015.

"The launch of the consultation today reflects our commitment stated in 2015 to go back to farmers in the event we wished to increase the levies."

B+LNZ Chief Executive Sam McIvor says the proposed levies increase would raise just over $4 million to invest on farmers' behalf in the priority areas.

"We have reprioritised resources over the last two years, allowing us to save approximately $1.4 million. We've reallocated those savings to the most pressing issues for farmers, however, to fully realise the opportunities and deliver better outcomes for farmers, B+LNZ does require additional investment."

The consultation runs from June 7 to July 13. Consultation packs will be arriving soon. Farmers can share their views at www.beeflambnz.com/levy2018, by attending one of the local meetings around the country, or by contacting B+LNZ on enquiries@beeflambnz.com or 0800 233 352.

If adopted, the changes would take effect from 1st October 2018.
Full details of the levy proposal can be found at www.beeflambnz.com/levy2018