Western North Island Beef + Lamb New Zealand director and Whanganui farmer Kirsten Bryant has ended her consultation road trip with an air of confidence farmers are on board with their lobby's direction.
There were several important items on Bryant's road trip agenda, including the proposed levy increase to help fund ongoing projects identified as crucial by farmers themselves.
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.
The consultation process ends nationwide tomorrow when B+LNZ will access submissions.
"My consultation meetings are all finished but other directors meetings are still going," Bryant said.
"There are varying levels of attendance at meetings but with farmers having a variety of ways to access information we are finding farmers are really well informed and having great questions and ideas.
"This is an important decision and B+LNZ is looking for strong support from farmers for the proposed levy increase. It will not proceed if it does not get that. We have been really pleased by the level of feedback we have received, which provides a great overview of how farmers think B+LNZ is going. Many farmers have really taken the time to provide detailed feedback."
Bryant said one of the key areas of focus for farmers in the levy proposal has been the work that B+LNZ is doing and plans do on their behalf in the environment space.
"Over the last few years the environment has been a major focus for the public and in policy conversations. It is also very clear that consumers are increasingly making purchasing decisions based on the environmental footprint of their products."
In May the organisation released its environment strategy which lays out a progressive long-term vision for the sector based around four priority areas — healthy productive soils, thriving biodiversity, reducing carbon emissions and cleaner water. It includes a comprehensive three-year plan that demonstrates the commitment of the sector to achieving the goals and has been well-received by government and NGO's (non government organisations).
"This strategy has been developed in partnership with sheep and beef farmers and the activities and work programme that sits within the plan are all designed to support farmers with the knowledge and tools to best manage their resources," Bryant said.
"One of the key topics of interest and discussion at the farmer meetings has been the need for the environmental credentials of the sector to underpin the NZ Farm Assurance Programme and the Taste Pure Nature Country of Origin brand.
"In general farmer feedback has supported the goals of the strategy and at the same time they have reiterated the need for our sector to tell our story better. This is another key focus area of the levy increase proposal and it's really helpful that farmers see this as an important activity.
"We are proposing to accelerate our activity for farmers with a potential levy increase from 3.7m to 4.5m. The additional funding will go towards speeding up the development of the new farm plans and supporting farmers to do the plan and to implement them. Currently we estimate that 40 odd per cent of farmers have a plan.
"Speeding up our research and development of tools to help farmers make the best environmental decisions on farm allow us to measure the impacts and ensure we are able to influence policy development. Measuring our results in a standard manner is a key ingredient in showing our progress and telling the farmer story," Bryant said.