Why do farmers and industry good organisations keep doing this?

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Posted by Brendon Walsh on 30 May 2017

Ag Innovation 2

In a recent blog, I discussed the dangers believing in the “one big thing,” as the answer to NZ sheep and beef farmer’s lack of business results. Our seemingly innate desire for “something for nothing” sees most of us line up again for the next answer when we hear the words “here comes the next game changer.” History of course proves this method does not deliver as promised most of the time, so you’d think some distrust would have developed by now from farmers towards those who espouse this way of thinking. But no! Many just grin, bear it and wait for the next instruction, again. What I find puzzling is that farmers are paying for this to continue as is!

Yes, farmers are compulsorily levied every time an animal is killed at meat processing plants, for the purposes of “industry good” activities. It may not seem much per animal but add it up over your financial year and you may be surprised at the contribution each farmer makes. Various organisations are charged with using and/or allocating this money to worthy projects and uses for the good of the industry. That’s how the system has been functioning up until now. However, while there are some good value projects being worked on and various seminars delivering some useful techniques and education, farmers need to up their game in understanding the true value they are receiving for their investment.

For example, a 1 day annual industry innovation event recently had many farmers attending but it was only a miniscule percentage of total levy payers. Those who really needed to be there, weren’t. These farmers made their own choice not to attend or course, but this does bring up an issue around lack of engagement with those funding the event (farmers). Are they not coming because of apathy? Are they staying away because they feel there is no value in going and with a compulsory levy, what can you do anyway? Perhaps finding out why this is and making changes to engage in a valuable way might be a worthy project?

There was an excellent presentation around farmers defining and telling their story, and innovation around new wool uses, plus a few other good topics. Some presentations were the same old same old (no innovation). In summary at the end there appeared to be little direction for farmers apart from “tell your story” to show that farming is a crucial activity and so that they engage city folk with the great things in farming.

Some will argue that farmers get to vote on continuing the levy or not every few years and so have the opportunity to vote it out then. But this is not the point. It’s not about having the levy or not having the levy. It’s fine to invest money for the good of the industry, just make sure there is plenty of value being returned for the investment made. If there isn’t enough value, why does this continue? Shouldn’t these organisations spending farmers money change what they are doing to deliver greater value or at least formulate some positive direction for farmers to passionately engage with? They might just get plenty of levy payers along to events engaging with the uses of their funds, and they may just have more of a say in how that is done going forward.

So, as to why many farmers just grin, bear it and wait for the next instruction, and then pay for this to continue as is - who knows what all of the reasons are. But one thing is for certain: people and money flow to value, by choice! If the money is flowing not through choice, and people are not flowing, there is likely a disconnection and a value issue at play. Best those in charge of spending farmers money figure this out and make some changes. If this isn’t done or won’t be done, farmers need to ask themselves why they continue to compulsorily pay for little value. Any investment resource would advocate the same.

Perhaps the farmers are hanging on in hope that something valuable will come out of that investment for them eventually. “It’s only a small amount per animal after all.” But do we really want “clinging to hope” and lack of value to be normalised in our industry? Either way, positive change is needed from us all. What are you doing to cause positive change in your business and industry?

If you are curious about how the GrowFARM® System can help sheep and beef farmers generate the profits they really want, contact me here.

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  • For under 1 cent a kilo of wool produced nz farmers helped fund,until 2009, a second to none, internationally recognised, training system. Since the voting down of this levy I believe the wool industry training has been squeezed into free fall with the risk of quality premium prices for our product (95% strong wool) seriously compromised. These types of wools can be acquired for as little as 50 cents a kilogram on the international market, the farmers are to blame for non investment and poor quality control and ultimately for poor returns on this product

    Posted by Bill Hale, 12/06/2017 7:38pm (4 years ago)

  • We are the farmers it's our money we have a responsibility to ourselves to act and have our say about what we want and get involved so the money is spent where we want it!
    If they don't listen then we need to do something about that! If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem!

    Posted by Melissa Bradly, 30/05/2017 4:58pm (5 years ago)

  • It's the same with dairy. If the levy organisation is happy to continue the status quo, and doesn't want to listen to any new ideas, then the levy will continue to be spent on things which don't make a real difference, and the farmers will continue to pay. They've been trained for many years to believe what 'experts' tell them, and so they either do that, or don't attend or listen. Either way they don't find out anything new through their levies, and are told not to listen to 'outsiders' who are viewed as 'Greeks bearing gifts' who must be crooks.

    Posted by Sue Edmonds, 30/05/2017 1:32pm (5 years ago)