28 May 2012

Still conditions to meet on Fonterra plan - shareholders

7:08 am on 28 May 2012

The new chair of the Fonterra Shareholders' Council says the farmer watchdog body is comfortable with the way the Trading Among Farmers plan is going so far.

But he says the process isn't over yet and there are still conditions to be met before farmers can approve it.

Ian Brown, a southern Waikato farmer, has stepped in as chairman, after the former chair, Simon Couper, resigned from the council last week.

Mr Couper stood down because he's not convinced there are enough safeguards to protect farmers' full ownership and control against the interests of outside investors, who will be able to buy the dividend rights to shares that farmers deposit in a fund.

He was at odds with most of the 35-member council on that issue.

Ian Brown agrees that the shareholders fund and its size are the key issues for farmers.

He says the fund is an essential part of the TAF scheme but is also a potential area of risk over time.

"Having said that, you consider those risks and you work to ensure the fund achieves what it was set out to do, which was effectively price discovery and the removal of the obligation to redeem by Fonterra.

"If it does that and no more and you've mitigated the risk that that could potentially pose to you, then that's the judgement call that you have to make".

Mr Brown says the council has yet to make a final decision on TAF as it hasn't finished due diligence nor seen the final rules and legislation.

Farmers will have a final vote on the Trading Among Farmers scheme on 25 June.