Wednesday, February 21, 2024

FAR seeks endorsement to carry on

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Arable farmers asked to vote to renew levy orders.
FAR chair Steven Bierema is confident the organisation has the support of its grower base.
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The future of the Foundation for Arable Research will be decided when voting opens for arable farmers next month.

Under the Commodity Levies Act, growers have the opportunity every six years to vote to renew the levy orders. 

A “yes” vote will ensure FAR’s continued existence and ongoing contribution to the cropping industry.

A “no” vote would result in the organisation being wound up and all research and extension programmes ceasing.

Voting papers will start arriving in farm mailboxes from July 21.

Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) chair Steve Bierema is confident the levy-funded organisation has the support of its grower base.

“We put a lot of effort into consulting, formally and informally, with growers up and down New Zealand to ensure that our research and extension strategy matches the needs of our farmers.” 

He said the results of grower surveys and feedback from regional grower groups have identified environmental compliance as one of the biggest concerns facing arable farm businesses, which is why FAR has expanded its environmental research and extension capability to provide information and support to help growers meet these challenges. 

Ongoing involvement in managing existing and new weeds, pests and diseases has also been important. 

FAR’s extensive crop protection programme covers the development of pest and disease monitoring and forecasting tools and technologies, ongoing improvements to pesticide resistance management plans and the evaluation of new softer chemicals, biologicals and cultural practices as part of integrated pest management programmes. 

“Signing up as a key partner to the pan-sector multimillion-dollar A Lighter Touch programme provides the opportunity to effectively leverage FAR funds and deliver greater research outputs for our growers.”

In addition, having signed up to the Government Industry Agreement (GIA) on Biosecurity in 2019 as part of Seed and Grain Readiness and Response (SGRR), FAR has been actively involved in several key biosecurity responses, including to black grass and fall armyworm, in addition to an earlier role in pea weevil’s eradication.

“Proactive attempts to eradicate or limit the spread of new pests is crucial to maintain the future viability of the arable industry,” Bierema said.

Notwithstanding the challenges associated with covid restrictions, FAR said it has delivered a suite of valuable extension activities over the past six years and built a broader extension framework with increased use of digital technologies, social media and most recently a new grower-to-grower knowledge exchange platform called Growers Leading Change. 

Bierema said it also has good links into Wellington and has successfully leveraged funds from central government for numerous research projects through MBIE Endeavour, the Sustainable Farming fund, Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund and Ministry for the Environment funding for environmental projects. 

He said the referendum will not affect levy rates, which are currently set at 0.9% of sale value for all grain and herbage, amenity and open pollinated vegetable seed crops; 0.6% of sale value for hybrid vegetable seed crops; $1.00 per 10,000 seeds purchased for maize; and $10 per hectare for cereal silage.

“We are asking our growers to vote to roll over the existing levy orders on arable crops, maize and cereal silage so that we can keep doing what we have always done, adding value to the business of cropping,” Bierema said.

Voting can be completed by putting papers in the post or using the online option, details of which are printed on growers’ voting papers. 

Bierema said FAR encourages growers to use the online voting system, which is automatic and more secure. Postal and online voting closes at 12 noon on August 23 with voting results expected on August 28. 

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