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Chairman's Address Meat and Fibre Conference

31 March 2004
Chairman's Address New Zealand Meat and Fibre Producers Conference

Ian Corney, Chairman

The last year has been an extremely busy one for New Zealand Meat and Fibre Producers (NZMFP) and for Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc) as a whole.

The number of issues that we deal with is remarkable but daunting. We face international pressures, policies enforced by our own administration, increasing compliance costs, and a growing population of people in cities who are losing their knowledge and understanding of country life.

Federated Farmers has an important role to play to ensure that our Government understands how our members operate and the implications that policy can have on the industry and rural life. We work for a sustainable business environment and provide support and information to our members.

Federated Farmers is an important platform for the rural voice. Many issues facing the industry however are broad, and impact on the agricultural sector in different ways. It is important for Federated Farmers to co-operate with others involved in agriculture to achieve more than is possible on our own. It is important for us to use opportunities to build relationships domestically and internationally, which could make our knowledge base bigger and give us more influence when we need it.

The level of co-operation throughout the industry that has been displayed on an international, national and local stage over the last year is encouraging.

On the international front the executive had a useful exchange with our Australian counterparts from the Sheepmeat Council of Australia in Melbourne last year and I also had the opportunity to visit Canada and the United States to talk and participate in a tri-country lamb forum.

The presence of Guy Flora and Peter Orwick from the American Sheep Industry Association and Ian Feldtmann from the Sheepmeat Council of Australia in the room today is a testament to the willingness of these organisations to learn from each others' experience and co-operate for the good of our industry.

There has also been good co-operation on a national level.

There has been increased co-operation between different primary sector organisations to fight unjustified compliance costs such as the border security fee. It was great to see 15 organisations put their logos and signatures together on a letter that Federated Farmers initiated to oppose this tax.

We have seen a much greater will to communicate from the soon-to-be Meat and Wool New Zealand. Looking forward, we hope that this increased liaison and co-operation will mean that we are able to support Meat and Wool NZ where it is appropriate and for them to support us in our endeavours with the positive outcome of reduced duplication and increased impact.

I also see it as a positive sign that we had representatives from the NZ Shearing Contractors' Association speak at our last Council meeting and that I have been invited to attend their next AGM in May.

It is also good to see Northland represented here today for the first time in many years. It is great to be able to communicate directly to farmers in Northland, to listen and learn about their aspirations and to involve them in the work of Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc).

Locally we have also seen communities work together to fight things such as school closures and help one another survive and pick up the pieces after natural disasters such as fires and floods. Thank you to all those who showed leadership during these events and to every single person who helped out.

Through our combined efforts we have made progress and had many wins during the last year.

NZMFP in particular can be proud of the progress that has been made in making the Producer Boards more accountable. The legislation enabling this is almost complete. It is time now to work with Meat and Wool New Zealand to ensure that the outcomes farmers wanted are achieved.

The F.A.R.T. tax was one of the Federation's more publicised wins but it is the numerous small wins that really make the difference. For example, Federated Farmers successfully lobbied for farmers to be eligible for a fuel excise refund from ACC for farm fuel not used on the roads. The time and effort put into individual submissions such as the implementation of the HSNO Act and the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill is critical to ensure that farming remains a sustainable business.

Federated Farmers' Meat and Fibre Producers Council has played a large role in many of the Federation's successes by channelling feedback from members, contributing knowledge where it is needed and putting in countless hours to deal with both local and national issues.

One of the most important strengths that I believe the NZMFP Council has is our network, which connects us to our members and lets us share our knowledge and experience. We have the potential and the resources to be heard and make a difference for ourselves and our industry. The credibility that we have developed for ourselves within the industry and the key relationships we have fostered mean that people are willing to listen to us and we can get involved with issues at an early stage, while it is easier to get things changed.

There are many challenges ahead ranging from biosecurity to agrichemicals. Federated Farmers is uniquely placed within the industry to lobby on behalf of all farmers. NZMFP plays a vital role within the federation by ensuring that the needs of our meat and fibre members are met while maintaining strong links with other industry groups to ensure a holistic approach is possible to deal with issues facing the whole agricultural sector.

I urge you all to continue forging relationships with members and other key contacts. Information is valuable and will help us to become proactive and better equipped to meet the challenges ahead.

Many thanks to all of you who put in so much effort trying to keep farming sustainable for all of us, especially the other members of the Executive. The Vice-Chairmen Peter Chamberlain and Keith Kelly and the other executive members Kees van Beek and Jean Martin have had input into numerous issues and have been a great support.

It is with great regret that we see Jean Martin stepping down from the Executive this year. Jean played an important role in liasing with the Shearing Contractors Association during the development of recommendations for fasting of sheep prior to shearing and has been very active on ACC, health and education issues.

I would like to thank all the representatives on the Meat and Fibre Council for their leadership and the huge amount of energy they put into the federation, the policy and administration team for their hard work, and all our members for their support.

Thank you also to our sponsors whose involvement and generous support makes this event possible. Thank you especially to our major sponsors Ravensdown Fertiliser Co - operative, Telecom New Zealand, FMG, Rural Post, ACC Farmsafe, the National Bank of New Zealand and Wrightson.

Note: Speech was delivered at noon, March 31.

ENDS

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