Calling all sharemilkers - remember you have a vote

Dairy farming leaders are urging sharemilkers to make the most of an opportunity to have their own say on the future of their industry.

DairyNZ board member and Manawatu herd-owning sharemilker Ben Allomes says 28 percent of DairyNZ's levypayers are sharemilkers. Until May 31, they, along with other dairy farmers, can vote on whether to continue the levy on milksolids that is used to fund a range of activities including dairy farming research.

"Sharemilkers don't always get a say in industry issues like Fonterra votes because you have to be a shareholder - but this is a levy vote, and because sharemilkers supply milk to a dairy processor, they get a vote just like any farm owner," he says.

"Many sharemilkers don't realise that. We are getting out there spreading the message on social media including using Twitter and Facebook, reaching levy payers in a way that has not been done before. There's a new generation of farmers coming through and we want to reach them in different ways as well as use traditional methods like calling them up on the phone. Our future depends on having a levy that can fund the research and development that we will need to keep dairy farming competitive. We have a lot at risk and the most to gain in this vote."

Ben is an equity partner in a dairy farm as well as a sharemilker - and there are many other farmers around the country who are mixing and matching different pathways as they progress and build careers in the industry. He was New Zealand Sharemilker of the Year in 2008 and president of Young Farmers for three years.

"DairyNZ was formed just as I was taking over the leadership of Young Farmers in 2007 and many young farmers and sharemilkers have benefited from its work including initiatives like Progression Groups.

"The nature of sharemilking is changing and evolving. There are still a lot of us - around 4000 paying the levy - and we can have a strong impact collectively," he says.

Federated Farmers' Sharemilkers Section chairperson Neil Filer agrees it is important that sharemilkers use their voting power.

"We pay the levy so we need to have our say too. Sharemilkers have a chance to actually have a voice in the industry by voting. They don't have many opportunities like that and this one only comes once every six years so it's important we take it up."

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Bernie Walsh
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