Whanganui farmer and Beef + Lamb NZ director Kirsten Bryant has a busy schedule ahead as she reflects on eight years on the board.

Bryant and husband Paul farm one property in Whanganui and two near Taumarunui, although she is finding that her role as western North Island farmer-elected director consumes the majority of her working life.

On the immediate horizon Bryant heads out on a brief, but busy road trip on her patch to host stand-alone meetings with her constituents to discuss a wide range of issues, including the proposed increased sheep and beef levies to accelerate investment in a range of strategically important programmes. B+LNZ chairman Andrew Morrison will accompany Bryant on the road trip.

"I basically started at ground zero in this job in 2010 after the wool levy was dropped and Meat and Wool New Zealand became Beef +LNZ," Bryant recalled.


"We had to regain the trust of farmers. It's a completely different world now compared to those early days. Fast-forward to 2015 when the last referendum was held and 86 per cent of those who voted were in support of what we were doing."

Bryant concedes that farming referenda traditionally only attracts around a third of eligible voters, but she firmly believes there is a positive even out of that statistic.

"I once heard that the absence of a rebuke is actually acceptance, so that's what I choose to believe."

The proposed levy increase may not be such a hard sell given the many difficult hurdles facing farmers in today's environment.

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.

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.

And these are the very subjects on Bryant's stand-alone meeting agenda in Whanganui, Feilding, Stratford and Taumarunui. The road trip begins at Kingsgate in Whanganui at 10am on June 21.

"It's been a very busy year for B+LNZ. We have undertaken a major strategy review and re-organisation," Bryant said.


"During that process we looked at the challenges and opportunities for our sector, of which there are many. We looked to organise ourselves as an organisation to meet those challenges.

"What we are seeing is that the pace of change is accelerating. Our strategy review included major input from farmers and we discovered from that process that farmers are worried about being under attack from many quarters, not being understood and that they wanted us to tell their story better."

Environmental focus

Biosecurity has become an even more important issue given the mycoplasma bovis outbreak, while the environment is an issue that will never go away.

"Domestically there is a huge focus on the environment and pressures from NGOs (non-government organisations). The New Zealand public's expectations around the environment have risen sharply and public perceptions of agriculture have eroded.

"The government is considering regulation in a number of areas that will affect farmers, such as including us in the ETS, stricter water standards, fencing, and planting one billion trees."

"Farmers are keen for us to tell their story better around the environment. The majority of farmers are actually environmentally-minded and, in fact, our greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand are down 30 per cent on 1990 levels.

"Globally consumer preferences are also changing rapidly. There is significant investment into alternative proteins and growing consumer concern about the environmental footprint of food and mistrust of industrially-produced food.

"Alternative proteins are not just another fad, they are real. People are eating red met less often, but when they do eat red meat they are prepared to pay for it.

"This is where our Taste Pure Nature and Red Meat Story need to be told. When the Taste Pure Nature brand was launched last month it was with 100 per cent support from the entire New Zealand meat industry. Its development has been underpinned by robust and thorough consumer research, so it is consumer-led," Bryant said.

Then there were global trade issues to contend with, especially given the uncertainty of Donald Trump and Brexit.

"The trade world is very uncertain. The UK's vote to leave the European Union has put at risk our sheepmeat access into the EU and UK. That represents 50 per cent of our global sheepmeat exports and we have no idea what the United States will do.

"We have recently partnered with MIA (Meat Industry Association) to fund New Zealand meat ambassador Jeff Grant up in the UK."

Bryant said the strategy review revealed farmers were keen for B+LNZ to take more of a leadership role.

"They want us to be more active and more influential, be a thought leader and look ahead to come up with solutions to help put farmers back in the driving seat, rather than constantly feeling on the back foot," Bryant said.