Saturday, December 2, 2023

Farmer campaign has O’Connor questioning BLNZ’s ‘priorities’

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‘Kiwis Backing Farmers’ might not be the best use of the sector group’s time and money, the minister suggests.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says the government is ‘preparing a comprehensive recovery package’ for individual producers.
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Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says he questions the priorities of Beef+Lamb New Zealand after it launched a campaign against government policies it says are crippling farmers.

That campaign, Kiwis Backing Farmers, was launched earlier in March by BLNZ together with advocacy group 50 Shades of Green.

Speaking in Hamilton, O’Connor questioned whether BLNZ wouldn’t be better off focusing its energy and resources on bigger priorities.

“My view is that perhaps they would be better off spending that money on investigating drench resistance or helping their farmers in Hawke’s Bay or the east coast.”

The organisation should work towards making farming systems more resilient so farms are not affected like they were when Cyclone Gabrielle occurred, he said.

Kiwis Backing Farmers aims to highlight the cumulative impact on rural communities of successive government policies – for example, the wholesale conversion of productive sheep and beef farms into carbon farms.

The Meat Industry Association (MIA) has backed the campaign, saying the only sustainable way for the government to deliver better outcomes for the environment and the economy is to work with farmers.

“Many of these regulations could be much better aligned with on-farm practice, and collectively add unnecessary costs on farmers at a time when inflation and volatile global markets are putting their operations under extreme pressure,” MIA chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said. 

The meat-processing sector is also concerned about the lack of limits on fossil fuel emitters offsetting their emissions by planting trees on productive land, she said.

When asked if he was disappointed, O’Connor said:

“Yeah, I hope some of the decisions made at the [BLNZ] AGM aren’t a backwards step. I can remember the vote to remove the wool levy, which has been part of the destruction of opportunities for wool, and we’re desperately trying to build it back up using taxpayers’ money.

“Hopefully they share the vision of a better future. It does require commitment; it does require an industry good organisation and it requires people to make hard decisions on their behalf.”

BLNZ’s annual meeting is in New Plymouth on March 30. Nine remits have been lodged by farmers to be discussed at the meeting, indicating a heightened level of frustration by some levy players.

Those remits cover issues of weighted voting, consultation, transparency and a call for BLNZ to leave the He Waka Eke Noa partnership.

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