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Farmers to Decide on Best Levy Proposal

14 July 2009

NEW ZEALAND - Meat & Wool New Zealand (M&WNZ) says farmers should view with caution the newspaper advertisement that asks them to wind-up M&WNZ in favour of a plan for Research & Development only.

M&WNZ Chairman, Mike Petersen says after wide consultation with farmers at over 60 meetings around the country, and from nearly 900 written submissions and other market research, it’s clear that many farmers want their levies to fund a range of other work alongside funding research for the sector.

Mr Petersen said the extensive consultation in the last three months had allowed M&WNZ to develop a proposal from the grassroots up.

"Farmers have told us what activities they support and also where they want us to do better. We are now working at putting the final proposal together, and we are confident that we have addressed many of the concerns expressed by farmers in the consultation round," he said.

Farmers have been particularly vocal about the need for levies to fund M&WNZ’s market access activities given the reliance on export markets that take over 90 percent of all our sheep meat and beef. Farmers are also very supportive of M&WNZ’s work in partnership with other farmer representative organisations to ensure legislation and regulation does not disadvantage sheep and beef farmers.

"Farmers are very aware of the impact of tariffs and other trade barriers on their returns, and they place great value on our work alongside the government in securing better access to markets through Free Trade Agreements. In written submissions 87 per cent of farmers said it was important for us to carry on working to reduce trade barriers and keep the doors to our markets open."

Mr Petersen said farmers would make up their own minds about the other proposal, outlined in the recent advertisement in a farming paper.

"The advertisement refers to a new proposal being presented by a group of concerned farmers. However there are no names attributed to the advertisement and clearly no alternative plan for farmers to judge. The levy rates mentioned there, at 15 cents for sheep meat and NZ$1 for beef, would only raise a total of NZ$6.2 million. This would mean that sheep and beef farmers would be the lowest investors in research out of any export sector in New Zealand.

"Essentially they are asking farmers to support one idea at the expense of the others that farmers have told us are important. When farmers receive the final proposal from M&WNZ in early August they will see we have spent considerable time building on our strengths and addressing the concerns that farmers have raised in the recent round of farmer meetings."

Mr Petersen says the challenge for an industry organisation is to try and present a proposal that takes into account the wide range if views presented from around the country, and M&WNZ is no different to other industry organisations in this regard.

"No farmer will agree with everything in the final proposal, but we are confident that we have accommodated the views of the majority to ensure there is the continuity of investment that farmers have told us they support."

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