A steering group reviewing the Fonterra Shareholders Council has received over 1400 responses from farmers and sharemilkers.
Victor Rutherford, an equity partner in a 600-cow farm near Dargaville, believes Fonterra has the potential to be as successful as the small Waikato processor Tatua.
“There’s an old saying: if you keep doing what you have always done and expect to get a different result, it’s not going to happen,” he told Rural News.
“Fonterra is still strong but it needs to be reinforced to a level far beyond where we are now.
“We must do this in order to get farmers back on board.”
Rutherford says the co-op cannot afford to have “a waiting list of people” at Open Country Dairy (OCD), New Zealand’s second largest processor.
“Tatua farmers aren’t on the waiting list at OCD. They are not unhappy, they love their co-op and are proud of what they have achieved.
“I think Fonterra has the potential to be very similar.”
Tatua last week announced a final payout of $8.50/kgMS, after retentions, for last season -- $2.15 more than Fonterra’s final payout of $6.35.
Tatua’s earnings equated to a payout of $9.66/kgMS, of which $1.16/kgMS was retained by the co-op.
Rutherford says Tatua’s results show farmers need “more than just change”.
“It’s aspirational and uncomplicated that Tatua can return $6 in a $3.90 year… and now Tatua is paying $8.50 after retaining $1.16, when Fonterra is paying $6.35.
“Farmers need more than just change... I have a strong determination that Fonterra needs to be better than even our new strategy suggests.”
Rutherford, a dairy farmer for the last 23 years, believes his business background and farming knowledge “would add some perspective to the decisionmaking process on the board”.
He is a strong believer in Fonterra farmers holding 100% ownership and control of the co-op.
“That’s my main motivation. If our co-op isn’t there OCD will be setting the rules. Fonterra cannot fail. Whatever it takes we must get farmers back on board.”
Five candidates are vying for two Fonterra directorships this year.
Incumbents Andy Macfarlane and Donna Smit retire by rotation and are re-contesting.
The other three candidates are Philipp Haas, Cathy Quinn and Victor Rutherford.
Apart from Rutherford, the other four candidates all took part in the independent assessment process. Rutherford is a self-nominated candidate with the written support of at least 35 farmer shareholders.
Voting starts October 15 and closes 10.30am on November 5. Results will be announced later that day.