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Bruce Wills address to Meat & Fibre Council



9.30am, 12 November 2008

Bruce Wills address to Meat & Fibre Council

Mercure Wellington, The Terrace

Dramatic change is all around us. Who would have guessed just six months that ago a charismatic young man would become the 44th President of the USA, or that the world would face its worst financial crisis since the depression of the 1930’s.

Closer to home – who would have guessed six months ago that the NZD at 77c US would now be closer to 60c, that the reserve bank would be dropping its interest rates 100 basis points at a time, that the New Zealand dairy juggernaut would come to such an abrupt halt.

Who would have guessed that New Zealand meat and fibre producers, who had just finished their worst financial year in real terms for two generations, receiving returns of just $55 for mid-season lambs would now be talking about a thing called T150; a target of $150 for a good mid-season lamb within a five year period.

Just as Obama has inspired millions of Americans that there is hope of a better future, my hope is, that in our own small way the T150 campaign that has been actioned on behalf of all meat and fibre producers, will lift the spirits and aspirations of New Zealand sheep farmers and give them the hope of a better future ahead.

Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre has raised the flag; we have drawn a line in the sand. But talk is cheap. The real challenge is making T150 a reality.

We all know the problems in our industry. Many of you have lots of ideas about what needs to be changed or improved.

My challenge to you all is that in two days time when you return to your farms, informed and inspired after what I hope will be a stimulating conference – that you take the T150 message back to your provinces and through the leadership positions you hold, do your very best to realise the hope of substantially better prices for lamb for the people we represent.

Over the next two days we will talk a lot more about what we need to do and how we might achieve this goal.

Many in the industry are relying on us to make a difference. Let me read to you just one of the dozens of emails I have received.

This is from Carol and David Saunders in the Maruia Valley they wrote…

“As the only sheep and beef farmers left in our valley out of 34 here earlier, we just want you to know that we totally support the push to get better prices for our product. Unless we get over $150 for the average lamb in the very near future we too will be forced to quit the industry. We have been farming sheep and beef on our property for over 40 years and have lifted production considerably increasing lambing percentages from around 90% to over 160% but it has done little good and we have just about run out of optimism as there has been no reward for increased efficiency and our hard work. We applaud what you are trying to achieve. Keep up the good work.”

To conclude and inspire let me quote a 47 year-old black man form Chicago who recently spoke these words to inspire a nation. These same words fit with my commitment to the sheep farmers of New Zealand, that with your help we will continue to do everything we can to ensure a more prosperous future for us all.

“The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but I have never been more hopeful that we will get there.”


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