26 Aug 2015

Farmers look to bridge rural-urban gap

3:42 pm on 26 August 2015

Sheep and beef farmers want to see levies spent on the environment, health and safety, and bridging the gap between urban and rural communities, a Beef + Lamb spokesman says.

Sheep in the Wairarapa east of Masterton.

Sheep in the Wairarapa east of Masterton. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The farmer-owned industry organisation is holding a referendum to see whether farmers want to keep funding it; voting closes on 10 September and about 3300 farmers - or 20 percent - have had their say.

Beef + Lamb chairman James Parsons has been touring the country and said similar themes were popping up in each region.

"The need to have better urban engagement and how do we bridge this rural urban divide, there's a lot of misunderstanding," he said.

"Health and safety is quite topical at the moment. A lot of farmers are quite concerned about some of the regulations and the health and safety reform bill they're just not sure how that will impact on their business.

"The environment is a really key one, farmers are concerned how they'll work through environmental regulations that regional councils are working up. dairy beef integration has been quite topical, quite a lot of interest in the dairy sector around how they can maximise their beef revenue from the beef production on their farms."

Mr Parsons said it had been a good chance to catch up with farmers to see how they were going.

"Further south, where there's much higher sheep numbers, there's been quite a lot of disappointment with lamb pricing and farmers are sure how things will play out in the coming season," he said.

"Climatically it has been very challenging as well, certainly in some regions. There's not a wealth of feed around the country but there's certainly some pockets where farmers are a lot better off.

"On the positive, beef pricing has just been outstanding."

Mr Parsons said the proposed levy rates to 2017 remained unchanged at 60 cents per sheep and $4.40 per cattle beast.

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