It’s a solid reminder of “what we’re here for in the primary sense – and that’s supporting our farmers”.
That’s Federated Farmers chief executive Terry Copeland explaining why he and the national board have spent time debating strategy, developing organisational values and agreeing on an aspirational set of business goals for the federation to pursue in the next five years.
A booklet setting these out, including ambitions to double the federation’s membership by 2030, was handed out at the national staff day gathering in Wellington earlier this month.
Some might feel a little bit cynical about the worth of corporate mission statements and even Terry says there’s work still to do on making the wording farmer-friendly, but he has no doubts about the worth of a document that captures Federated Farmers’ purpose, priorities and values.
“It’s really important that the people who are working in the organisation, and connected to us, know who we are and what we represent so that when we take a particular action on behalf of members, it conforms to the direction we agreed to head in. We’re not going to waste resources in areas that we’re not dedicated to.
“It helps us prioritise. It’s almost as much as saying what we don’t do as what we do take on.”
There’s no big change of direction that will take farmers by surprise, Terry says. Feds is known for its strong advocacy on behalf of the sector, its influence, policy analysis and the media attention it grabs to highlight matters that are important to rural families. That’s not going to change but there will be renewed emphasis on ensuring the families and businesses that stump up a Feds’ subscription get value for money.
Free-loaders – those who benefit significantly from the federation’s work but don’t pay anything to make it happen – “do annoy me,” Terry says. In future, more of the information Feds generates will be for members only.
“Part of this is about how we differentiate the work that we do for members versus the work we do for Farming Inc. We’re shifting from being content-led to insights-led. We want to pre-empt and guide members through any impact that current law and rule changes may have on their business.
“Who wants to read a 200 page submission on climate change? But if we can tell a member how it’s going to affect their own community, or even right down to their own farm, that’s going to be worth paying a membership for. If we can talk to some of those rural businesses about what’s going on in their particular district, there’s real value in that.”
The aim is to personalise and tailor information, gathering it en masse and then “distilling it in a way that is easily understood by members”.
Another priority is to continue and enhance the federation’s role in nurturing and promoting leaders in the rural sector by offering training and opportunities to develop skills, name recognition and step into roles of influence. Any number of directors, chairs and CEOs of high-flying primary industry organisations and corporations started their climb as Federated Farmers branch elected leaders or staff.
There are two prongs to the federation’s ambitions to reach 25,000 members by 2030, and increase member and commercial income from $9.6m to $15m. Financial stability is the obvious one but Terry says just as important if Feds is to remain the ‘Respected Voice of Farming’ is to broaden our base and “size of voice”.
The federation’s traditional membership catchment is shrinking, with fewer farm owners than there were a decade ago. It’s not tenable to just keep on increasing membership fees to cover inflation and rising costs.
A significant growth area to unlock lies in associate memberships – lifestyle block owners, Young Farmers, those in associated sectors such as the NZ Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association. Feds is targeting 11,000 members, paying a lower than farm subscription, in that category.
Another 2000 members will come from rural businesses, contractors and professionals.
“We’re talking about people like a diesel mechanic in Raetihi or a sole veterinary practice in Gore – businesses that pretty much rely solely on farmers for their income. We’re confident they’re interested in showing support to their rural customers, getting insights from us on what’s happening in the rural scene in their province, and tailored information they can use.”
Window decals and other collateral will be available so they can identify themselves as backers of Federated Farmers.
There’s also scope for growing non-member related income, though Terry is quick to caution that chasing that extra money doesn’t became a distraction from core priorities. Just one opportunity: farmer related debt totals some $28 billion. Could a joint venture with a bank grab a lion’s share of that book, generate a commission for the federation and drive for a slightly lower interest rate for farmer participants?
- Federated Farmers members can read the full strategy document, here.