Friday, April 12, 2024

Fee hike shot down at BLNZ meeting

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Strong views from a voter turnout barely in double figures.
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Sheep and beef farmers voted down a proposal to increase the director fees pool of their industry organisation but lent favourably towards several farmer-proposed remits at the annual meeting of Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

The BLNZ meeting saw three of the five farmer-proposed remits passed, leaving the board to now decide if any further action is required.

The remit proposer spoke to their proposals, followed by a frank and productive discussion by those in attendance at the meeting in Nelson. 

Following the meeting, at which final in-person votes were received, the results of the remits were finalised.  

Three farmer proposals were supported and passed with two failing to gain support.

First up was Neil Henderson, proposing that BLNZ acknowledge that NZ ruminants are not causing global warming and the organisation work actively and widely to dispel the myth that livestock are casing significant global warming requiring the need for emissions reduction.

“It is devastating to see consumers who have so often heard the lie that our livestock are destroying the planet, that they are giving up eating meat,” Henderson said.

“It is even more saddening to see my fellow farmers being sucked into this lie and wasting money on this non problem that could be more usefully spent elsewhere.

“Our leaders could, and must, do better.” 

From the floor, Hamish de Latour said: “We must stop ticking boxes just to be seen to be doing something.”

This remit was supported 65.84% in favour with 33.75% against. 

Next up was Helen Mandeno, who proposed that when NZ’s beef and lamb marketing advantages, such as pure natural, grass-fed and non-GE, are threatened by policies that undermine the economic importance and uniqueness of these characteristics, majority consensus must be granted from levy payers before BLNZ can support and advance such policies.

“NZ farmers have worked hard to achieve this reputation, which aligns closely to the reasons why we farm in the first place,” she said.

“Consumers rejected fake meat and margarine and they could well do the same to our product if it is changed from its current pure form.

“It is imperative that our pure and natural reputation is preserved and maintained at all costs and not sacrificed to fulfil short-term climate agendas,” Mandeno said.

This remit was supported 50.65% in favour; 49.35% against.

Up for remit three was Jason Barrier, proposing that BLNZ establishes a unified emissions position (UEP) for the sheep and beef sector, before entering further emissions discussions and negotiations with the government.

“I’m here to talk about Team Sheep and Beef. We need to have our own house in order before we start building any more Team Ag sandcastles.

“As an industry we need to move forward to a position where our key organisations are aligned and where we can agree on some fundamental principles before entering further discussions with government, or indeed other sectors such as dairy.   

“It’s time to change the way we do advocacy in this industry, no more schoolyard politicking that has dogged this industry in past years.”

Referring to the key organisations BLNZ, Federated Farmers and Groundswell, which should form part of the UEP, Barrier asked: “How hard can it be to get everyone in the same room to listen and respect, with no more secret conversations?

“We need to see the leaders of these three organisations walking in the front door instead of the back door together.

“It is our industry that is the glue that holds the community together in every nook and cranny of NZ.”  

This remit was supported 59.86% in favour; 40.14% against.

Remit four, proposed by Hamish Bielski around BLNZ Genetics and remit five proposed by Nat Small on binding remits, were not supported.           

BLNZ chair Kate Acland said the board will discuss the results and the feedback received at the meeting, at the next board meeting in early April.

She noted that the board’s current positions largely align with the remits that were supported, but that the board will consider whether any further action is required.  

The results of two company resolutions, to increase directors’ fees and to reappoint KPMG as auditor, were also finalised. 

The resolution on increasing director fees was not supported, going down 34.23% in favour to 65.68% against.

Farmer support is required for the proposal to proceed, so the fees will not be increased this year, Acland said.  

“We respect this result. We recognise it’s extremely tough on farm at the moment and believe this has been reflected in the voting outcome. 

“However, the fact remains that BLNZ’s director fees are well below industry benchmarks and while the result shows there are some farmers who would be comfortable with this being addressed now, that’s not the case for the majority so we’ll pick this up again when the time is right.” 

The voter turnout represented 12% of registered sheep, beef and dairy farmers.  

“We are hugely disappointed with the low turnout. 

“We appreciate it’s an incredibly busy time on farm and farmers are facing significant challenges, particularly around profitability. However, it’s important that farmers have their say on the running of their levy-funded organisation,” Acland said. 

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