Lockwood Smith to Visit Rakaia Electorate Tomorrow

  • Dr Lockwood Smith

The Government's progressive change management process for producer boards means farmers will be able to decide whether they want industry organisations like the Meat and Wool boards to exist and be able to collect compulsory levies, Agriculture Minister Lockwood Smith said today.

"Right now, Wellington makes those decisions. In the future, it'll be farmers," he said.

Dr Smith was commenting on the eve of his visit to the Rakaia electorate to discuss producer board reform and other agriculture issues with local farmers.

"Under the current system, parliament - Pam Corkery and the rest of us - decides that there shall be a Meat Board and that is shall collect compulsory levies. Pam Corkery helps decide that there shall be a Wool Board and that it shall collect compulsory levies.

"The Government believes farmers should make these decisions, not politicians and bureaucrats in Wellington.

"The Government's progressive change management process for producer boards will pass the decision-making power to farmers.

"The process will also ensure change is handled carefully so that we do not risk New Zealand administration of our quota markets.

"Once implemented, reform will free forever our most important industries from the risk of parliamentary interference."

In the Budget, the Government asked each producer board to consult with farmers and develop initial plans for a future without special statutory powers. These are to be presented to the Government by 15 November, but no change will happen on that date. Following the presentation of the plans, further consultation with farmers will continue before changes are progressively implemented.

Dr Smith says that if farmers are happy with the performance of the Meat and Wool boards, the reform process will not involve significant change to the meat and wool industries. This is because the Commodity Levies Act provides a vehicle for industry organisations like the Meat and Wool boards to ballot farmers in order to be able to collect a compulsory levy. The Government has said it will amend the Commodity Levies Act if it is not seen as robust enough to cater for these larger industries.

Tomorrow, Dr Smith will arrive at the Malvern Recreation Centre in Darfield in time for a public forum on producer board reform at 10.00 am.

He will then discuss global trade liberalisation with Mid Canterbury Federated Farmers' Business Section on the corner of Tancred & West Streets, Ashburton at 12.15 pm.

At 3.30 pm, he will visit Carr Contracting Ltd, Hassell Street, Tinwald, which operates the biggest seed-cleaning plant in the Southern Hemisphere.

At 4.45 pm, he will hold a press conference at the Prime Minister's electorate office, 143 Tancred Street, Ashburton.

Dr Smith's final public engagement in Rakaia is a public forum on producer board reform at Ashburton Intermediate School at 7.30 pm.