27 Mar 2013

Farmers' leader to apologise over email comments

11:19 pm on 27 March 2013

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills says he will apologise to farmers in Hawke's Bay for offending them with comments in an email about a proposed shipment of feed from Lyttelton.

Mr Wills made the comments in an email about the cancellation of the shipment to drought-hit Hawke's Bay from Canterbury last week.

In the email he told a Canterbury farmer who was having difficulty getting Hawke's Bay farmers to pay for the ryegrass straw that the farmers were indecisive and should sort out their own stock feed requirements.

He says he was of the opinion that most good and organised farmers had matters in hand and those who were struggling were mostly the ones who needed help in the last drought.

Hawke's Bay co-ordinator of the East Coast Rural Support Trust, Mike Barham, says he had farmers committed to take 1200 bales.

Mr Barham told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme that farmers wanting to buy the feed found Mr Wills' comments deeply offensive.

"These are some of the best - I've got Hawke's Bay Farmers of the Year that have ordered this hay. They're the top farmers, they're highly insulted that Bruce called them that. But Bruce has has assured me he is doing his best to get this boat again for free delivery."

Radio New Zealand News understands some people have resigned in protest from the federation since that email was sent.

Mr Wills now says it was an embarrassing gaffe he made while frustrated and angry that the shipment couldn't be organised.

He told Morning Report the federation realised it had bitten off more than it could chew when it couldn't get farmers from across the North Island to commit to the shipment.

Mr Wills is at a Hawke's Bay field day on Wednesday and says he will be apologising to farmers for the comments.

Fodder continues to arrive in North Island

Federated Farmers is still hoping to make a new arrangement after having to cancel the shipment last week.

Fertiliser co-operative Ravensdown had offered space on a ship that could have carried 6000 large bales of straw and hay from to Napier and Tauranga.

Federated Farmers says it couldn't get arrangements in place before the deadline for that shipment ran out late on Thursday.

Chief executive Conor English says arranging shipments of ryegrass straw has been extremely complicated, but one container has now left for Hawke's Bay and more was being loaded up on Wednesday.

Mr English says Federated Farmers is working on getting a larger shipment of up to 3600 bales to the North Island in the next four to six weeks, if there is the demand and ability to pay.

The federation's mid-Canterbury grains chairman David Clark is also continuing his efforts to organise further supplies of ryegrass straw.

He says in the last couple of weeks Federated Farmers has moved about 1800 20-bale equivalents of straw and another 2000 or so will be on the move in the next couple of weeks.

Mr Clark says Federated Farmers has been partnering with shipping companies Hamburg Sud and Pacifica Shipping which have been very accommodating in their efforts to help those farmers who have been badly affected by drought.

He says the straw is being provided by baling contractors in Canterbury at fair market prices.