Tuesday, 27 February 2024 07:55

Winning back farmer trust

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Beef + Lamb NZ chair Kate Acland remains determined to win back farmer trust. Beef + Lamb NZ chair Kate Acland remains determined to win back farmer trust.

One year into her role as Beef + Lamb New Zealand chair, Kate Acland is continuing to work hard and win back farmer trust.

In December, she was elected unopposed for another three-year term on the board of B+LNZ, which looks after the interests of sheep and beef farmers.

After spending 90 working days away from home last year on B+LNZ duties and a month-long "Christmas holiday" working on the family farm, Mt Somers Station near Methven, she's ready for another year, which includes a strategy relaunch for the organisation.

"I'm ready for another exciting year and determined to win back farmer trust," Acland told Rural News.

"I want to make sure that we are delivering what farmers want and need from us."

Acland was thrust into the top job in March last year after previous chair Andrew Morrison was voted out by farmers, furious with B+LNZ's work around emissions pricing.

The first 12 months was "a lot of hard work". But Acland points out that she was well supported.

Leading up to last year's AGM, Morrison was aware of the risk of being voted out. Acland was appointed deputy chair and was prepared to take over.

Post-AGM, Acland says she knew there were "real farmer connection, farmer trust problems" facing the organisation.

"It was clear to me that we absolutely need to rebuild trust with our farmers," she says.

"We spent last year, quite deliberately, a lot of time on the road, in front of farmers just trying to listen and trying to understand as part of our strategy rebuild."

B+LNZ will release its revised strategy this year and Acland hopes farmers will embrace it.

"I really hope that when we release it, farmers will look at it and think that this is what I need from my organisation," she says.

"The new strategy will ensure that we are delivering what our sheep, beef and dairy farmers want and need from us.

"As part of the strategy refresh, we spent lot of time with focus groups talking to farmers - just asking what they value and what they need.

"The strong message came through on the importance of our focusing on farm to improve farmers productivity and profitability.

"They also wanted us to continue to represent them on policy, but ensure that we are listening and properly representing their views."

"We are determined to set up the organisation to be more agile and deliver on the advocacy space.

"We will advocate on sheep and beef policy issues like biosecurity, trade policy, animal welfare, and deal with environment-related issues as it relates to the beef and sheep sector.

"We are being quite clear, we won't try to be everything for everyone and actually not delivering."

Acland believes farmer trust in the organisation has improved, "but we are not there yet".

B+LNZ has also reviewed its policy and advocacy, as part of a remit passed at the last AGM. An independent consultant was hired for the review.

"One of the key things out of that is we absolutely need to be transparent if we do anything," she says.

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