20 Feb 2012

Meat company head questions role of Beef and Lamb NZ

1:55 pm on 20 February 2012

The chief executive of the country's biggest meat company says farmers need to question whether levy-funded organisation Beef and Lamb NZ still has a role to play.

Keith Cooper of Silver Fern Farms has resigned as a meat industry representative on the board of Beef and Lamb.

He stepped down several weeks before his term as director was due to end to draw attention to issues he believes farmer levy payers need to think about as they vote in elections for two positions on the board.

One of those issues is what he sees as the intrusion of the organisation into commercial matters through poorly-informed commentaries.

Another is the proposal to form a partnership with the Government funded primary growth partnership (PGP)and some meat companies, which he says would effectively develop a competing model to Farm IQ.

Farm IQ is a joint initiative between Silver Fern Farms, PGG Wrightson and Landcorp with primary growth partnership funding.

"Farm IQ is largely private money - we have to get a return on investment - wheras the Beef and Lamb proposal would be using more reserves, by and large, and Government money, and not commercial."

Mr Cooper says farmers also need to question whether the Beef and Lamb model is still the best use of farmer levy money.

Beef and Lamb NZ chair Mike Petersen says he welcomes a debate on the role and relevance of the organisation but denies that it has been intruding into commercial areas.

"We leave the commercial transaction between the exporting companies and the buyers completely up to them and unimpeded.

"Where we do get involved is that we co-fund some promotional programmes alongside the meat companies."

Mr Petersen says the new proposal seeking government PGP funding would complement the Farm IQ project, not compete with it.