30 Jan 2012

Farmers warned about MAF milk price views

6:34 am on 30 January 2012

Fairlie dairy farmer Leonie Guiney warns farmers to be aware of what she considers a potential challenge to Fonterra's right to set the price it pays for their milk.

MS Guiney says a Ministry of Agriculture policy document relating to Fonterra's plan to allow share trading among farmers raises the possibility of the Government having the power to set the milk price.

She is one of a group of farmers who are nervous about the operation of a shareholders fund proposed, as part of the trading among farmers plan, that outside investors could tap into.

They are worried that farmers participating in the fund could lose control of their shares.

Fonterra has come up with options to address those concerns. It will outline its ideas at a new round of farmer meetings this week.

But Ms Guiney is even more concerned about what MAF is recommending in a preliminary policy document on what should be in legislation to cover Fonterra's capital restructuring.

She says the implications for farmers' future milk payments in the draft regulatory impact statement, are serious.

Ms Guiney says the document is about maintaining competition in New Zealand amongst dairy companies and the argument for doing this focuses on ensuring Fonterra doesn't have the right to maximise its milk price.

She says MAF's draft regulatory impact statement is not Government policy yet, but she is urging Fonterra shareholders to read the document on the MAF website, in particular clause 41, before going to this week's meetings.