16 Jul 2010

Meat industry action group left leaderless

6:07 am on 16 July 2010

The future of the farmer action group pushing for meat industry reform is unclear, following the decision of two of its leaders to sell their sheep and switch to dairying.

More than two years ago, the Meat Industry Action Group (MIAG) backed the Alliance meat co-operative's mega-merger plan to draw the major meat companies into a giant processing and marketing venture.

After that failed, MIAG campaigned for a merger of the two big meat co-operatives, Alliance and Silver Fern Farms - again without success.

The group hasn't been active for a while, and if it does continue, it will be without two of its most prominent members.

Chairman John Gregan, who has been running a dairy farm beside his South Canterbury sheep and beef farm, has sold his sheep to go fully into dairying.

He cites the better returns from dairying and despondency with the lack of progress in the sheep and meat industries as reasons for the move.

And in Southland, former chairman Keith Milne sold the last of his sheep on Thursday and is leasing his farm to two neighbours for dairy grazing.

Mr Milne says the need for change in the meat industry is, if anything, greater than ever, but whether MIAG will be part of another campaign clearly depends now on finding farmers willing to carry it on.