Thursday, April 25, 2024

Acland marks a year of change at BLNZ

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A more transparent and responsive organisation is emerging, chair tells AGM.
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Twelve months in, the position of Beef + Lamb New Zealand chair “has been quite some job”, Kate Acland says.

Addressing the organisation’s annual meeting in Nelson, Acland said following a “somewhat prickly” 2023 annual meeting in New Plymouth, the past year has seen change.

“We have listened and we have responded, we’ve made changes as a direct result of feedback, which we know will make us a stronger and speaks volumes about farmers by farmers,” Acland said.

“Farmers were concerned we had lost our way and lost our focus on research and extension. 

“There was a clear view farmers wanted more transparency on how we developed our policy positions to make sure they represent the farmer voice. 

“We held more than 50 shed meetings that over 600 farmers attended. We wanted genuine conversation. 

“We have embraced developing a culture of more open dialogue and discussion with farmers and have reflected upon what we’re trying to achieve, which is about ensuring there is a good and better outcome for sheep and beef farmers, today and tomorrow.”

Acland told farmers the BLNZ board has committed to holding these meetings annually as an opportunity to listen to farmers.

Work has started on reviewing methane targets.

Globally respected climate scientists’ research, recognised by the IPCC, clearly shows that methane targets are too high, she said. 

“We’re advocating strongly for the targets to be reviewed based on warming science and we’re clear that if our sector is making progress towards these targets then there is no justification for a price on agricultural emissions.

“To inform this conversation we’re engaging directly with climate scientists of the highest international reputation.”

Acland highlighted the launch of several “exciting research programmes”, including work in genetics and parasite management, a sheep genetic programme expected to add $62 million to the industry’s bottom line every year, Informing NZ Beef bull data though nProve, and most recently the “hugely ambitious” seven-year project to tackle the impacts of facial eczema, a joint venture with the Ministry for Primary Industries Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund.

BLNZ is also doubling down on the fight against parasite resistance.

“We have given Wormwise a new lease of life and we’re working with researchers from around the world helping farmers diagnose and deal with resistance on their farms.

“Through all these investments we’re committed to giving farmers the tools and information needed to continue to thrive and face whatever challenges come our way.” 

In the policy space, Acland said there are challenges that are unique to the sheep and beef sector.

“While we are always looking for unified positions within the ag sector, we are never losing sight of the needs first and foremost of our farmers. It’s essential that there remains a strong independent voice for our farmers in any policy conversations.”

While the change in government presents an opportunity to reset some regulations, Acland said environmental policy cannot be a political football that lurches from government to government.

“We have an opportunity with this government to land enduring solutions and my challenge to them is to aim for cross-party support as they look to rebuild some of these policies.

“We know that meaningful and enduring change in the rural space will be farmer-led, it will be from the ground up.

“We also know that doing nothing is not an option. There will be hard decisions to make.

“Our future is our story and we are committed as BLNZ to that future.” 

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