Tuesday, 14 March 2017 14:55

First woman head for Feds?

Written by  Peter Burke
Katie Milne. Katie Milne.

There is widespread speculation about a contest for the presidency of Federated Farmers at its annual meeting in June.

The three year term of the current president, William Rolleston, ends then and normally the vice president, in this case Anders Crofoot, would succeed him.

But Dairy News has learned that he could be challenged by Katie Milne, a West Coast dairy farmer and ‘member at large’ on the Feds seven member board.

Milne has just been elected deputy chairman of Westland Milk Products and is seen as being able to connect well with ordinary New Zealanders including farmers.

Feds’ dairy, meat and fibre and arable divisions all have members on the board, and in addition to the president and the vice president there are two members at large.

Crofoot confirms he will stand for president, and the dairy chair, Andrew Hoggard, confirms he will make a bid for the vice president slot to be vacated by Crofoot.

But Feds is rife with speculation that Milne will make a bid for the top job. She hasn’t confirmed this outright, but says she hasn’t ruled it out and that June is far away. Should she stand and win, she would be the first woman president.

Crofoot is highly respected in farming and renowned for being an innovative farmer who has turned around his farm, Castlepoint Station. He is known for business skills, supporting and applying science and as very likable.

But there is a move by some provincial presidents, who elect the new board, for wholesale changes at the top level in Feds, given the ups and downs of the past three years. And there are also suggestions it may be time for a dairy farmer and a woman to take on the top role. The last three presidents – Nicholson, Wills and Rolleston -- have been sheep and beef men.

The other option would be for Milne to seek the vice presidency under Crofoot and for Andrew Hoggard to stand for member at large succeeding Milne.

But should Milne win the presidency, that would pave the way for Waikato dairy farmer and Feds Waikato dairy chairman Chris Lewis to join the board as the new dairy representative, while the present deputy of meat and fibre, Miles Anderson from Timaru, could make it to the board table, but again there could be other contenders in the wings. What happens in the member at large vacancy is anyone’s guess.

Three years ago there was simple transition for all the top spots, but six years ago in Rotorua skin and hair flew behind the scenes, ending up with Bruce Wills taking the chair.

As Milne says, June is a long way away, but some people in Feds are known to be counting down the days and are seeking transforming change to boost the wider profile and credibility of the organisation.

 

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