NEW Zealand farmers have voted resoundingly to continue funding red meat and wool industry-good activities through a compulsory levy and to form a single meat and wool organisation, Meat New Zealand.
The concept of a single organisation was supported strongly by farmers, 80pc of them supporting it in a vote held in August.
On weighted stock numbers, 76pc and 77pc voted for the sheepmeat and beef proposals respectively and 72pc for wool.
The industry-good activities include trade access, research and development, and market development for red meat, and education and training.
The compulsory levy, to be collected under the Commodity Levies Act 1990, requires thresholds on both a one-farm-one-vote count and weighted stock numbers to be passed by a simple majority.
A clear majority also voted to retain reserves and continue investing in biotechnology.
Meat New Zealand chairman Jeff Grant said the vote result was a strong mandate for the single organisation.
"The turnout was good, and the clear majorities on all counts show farmers fully support the industry-good proposals," he said.
SheepCo chairman Mike Petersen said the results showed farmers had fully endorsed the concept of the single organisation.
"Right from the start we had a strong message from farmers that they wanted a single organisation with a different approach, and 80pc of them supported it in the vote," he said.
"Farmers wanted a change, and the single organisation will give them that ‹ it has to be more accountable to farmers, with annual consultation about the levy rate. The five-yearly farmer vote under the CLA is the ultimate test."
Meanwhile, sheep numbers continue to drop in New Zealand and there are now estimated to be 39 million sheep ‹ or 26m breeding ewes.
According to David Scobie, researcher with New Zealand's AgResearch, the decline was levelling off as returns for other land-use options such as dairying and forestry are not as profitable as they have been.
³Recent statistics suggest that sheep farming is the most profitable rural enterprise due to increasing demand and reduced supply for sheep meat,² he said.
³The improved value of the New Zealand dollar has affected sheep farm incomes recently.²
The controversial proposal to introduce a fart tax ‹ levied at $600 per farm ‹ to cover animal methane emissions was dropped last year, New Zealand farmers protesting that they are the lifeblood of the country and should not be burdened with further costs.