Farmlands Chairman standing down

Farmlands Chairman Lachie Johnstone has confirmed he will not be standing at this year’s Director Elections, after nearly 19 years on the Board.

Having been Chairman of the rural supplies and services co-operative since November 2003, Lachie announced fellow Director Rob Hewett will take over as Farmlands’ new Chair following the next AGM, scheduled for November.

Lachie, from Waikato, has announced his decision to Farmlands staff, observing that his nearly two decades in governance with the rural supplies and services co-operative could be seen both as a positive and a negative.

“It has been my privilege to have watched Farmlands grow its footprint nationally. It’s now a nationwide cooperative, providing all the products and services our 68,000 shareholders need to succeed in business,” he says. “We’ve created a business that has an entire value structure built on giving back to those that trust us to help them with their livelihoods.

“At the same time, I’ve been vocal about the need for a stronger pool of candidates in rural governance. My view is 18 years plus is plenty for one person with one organisation and I look forward to continuing to work with Farmlands as a shareholder, rather than a Director.”

Lachie says his decision is based entirely on time served and he looks forward to the new challenges and opportunities ahead. “Above all, I’m confident that Farmlands is in good heart. Through the ‘To The Core’ programme, Farmlands, in conjunction with Silver Fern Farms, have made a big effort to foster the next generation of rural governance. This initiative, in tandem with our Braveheart business-wide transformation programme, means our co-operative is positioning dynamically for the future – a future we see being full of promise.”

Lachie joined the Board of North Island-based Farmlands Trading Society Limited in November 2000 and was at the helm when it merged with South Island-based CRT Cooperative in 2013. He became the inaugural Chairman of the newly created Farmlands Co-operative, which last year announced revenue of $2.39b with a profit of $12.2m.

Incoming Chairman Rob Hewett, who stepped down as Chairman of Silver Fern Farms Co-operative on 1st May, paid tribute to Lachie’s legacy within Farmlands.

“Steering two significant businesses through a merger of this scale in New Zealand is no mean feat and Lachie has been a strong and steady presence at the Board table,” Rob says. “I look forward to the opportunity to build on the progress the organisation has been making, while also reassuring shareholders that we have planned a seamless transition of leadership.”

Farmlands shareholders voted to adopt a new governance structure at last year’s Annual General Meeting at Hokitika, where the previous set-up of eight shareholder-elected and two independent directors was changed to six shareholder directors and three independents. While the transition in Board structure will be embedded over time, the Society’s Rules state that the Chair of Farmlands must be a shareholder, elected by their peers.

Lachie will remain Chairman of Wellington-based Centreport Limited, alongside other portfolios. He will remain Chairman of Farmlands until the end of the AGM, before stepping down from the Board. Rob is also Co-Chair of Silver Fern Farms Limited, a subsidiary of Silver Fern Farms Co-operative, of which he remains a Director.