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Wednesday, 27 November 2019 07:55

‘We have been there before’

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Fonterra Shareholders Council chairman James Barron. Fonterra Shareholders Council chairman James Barron.

New Fonterra shareholders council chairman James Barron says farmers are facing a raft of challenges.

But this isn’t the first time farmers have been under the pump, he says.

“We always have been able to overcome these challenges: this time is no different,” he told Dairy News.

He says the challenges provide “a massive opportunity” for Fonterra farmer shareholders to work together and get through them.

Changes to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) concern a lot of Fonterra farmers: most remain unhappy about having to supply milk to competitors at a subsidised price.

Farmers are also facing new regulations on freshwater and carbon emissions. Barron says consumer expectations and preferences are also changing, faster than ever before. And rural banking is also changing.

On Fonterra’s performance, he admits that its financial performance has been unsatisfactory.

But the co-op is doing many good things.

“Fonterra is providing me with a farm environment plan, it picks up milk every day and makes timely payment for it. It also supports me through the Farm Source model.

“And to top it all off, it maximises the price paid for my milk.”

On the council’s performance, Barron says all the recommendations of a governance and representation review in 2016 are in place.

The council has also changed the way it does things. For example, it now has communications designed for younger farmers and future shareholders.

And as shareholders have requested, the council now has more focus on its roles and functions outlined in Fonterra’s Constitution. Face-to-face engagements with shareholders have increased in the last 12 months and its annual conference is now open to more shareholders.

Barron says the council has also reviewed the way it collects and collates farmers’ views.

“So, we are continually looking to improve the way we do things. There’s no perfect state. As long as we all try to improve I think that’s the right space to be in.”

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