Comments by Federated Farmers Dairy Chair Frank Brenmuhl on the right of farmers to continue to produce food as an election issue might win support from other farmers but the way he says won’t win friends anywhere else.
Dairy farmers were being held responsible for greenhouse gas emissions that the could do little about without reducing food production, he said.
“This election is about … the right of farmers to continue to produce food for the world and revenue for this nation”.
It may be for the minority who are farmers, but I suspect it’s not for most other people.
He said dairy farmers were being attacked because they are:
* paid the world price for much-needed food;
* seen as privileged for owning dairy farms;
* using water and resources they own to produce food;
* not subsidising the cost of dairy products in NZ supermarkets.
But he questioned how New Zealanders expected to be able to afford to import nearly 60 percent of their food, electronic appliances, vehicles and other consumer goods, if there was no farm produce to sell.
“As a trading nation we have to sell stuff in order to buy stuff,” he said. “What part of this do they not understand?”
Townies should not expect dairy farmers to donate $15 million so that the price of dairy foods sold in NZ can be reduced.
“They want … and they want … but they do not want to pay.” he said.
“Why should farmers have to be better than, more considerate than, more accountable than the rest of New Zealanders?” Mr Brenmuhl said.
“Am I ashamed of success? Not one bit. It is what is desperately needed for New Zealanders to be better off”.
The physical resources that farmers used to produce food did not belong to the Crown, non-government organisations, or to the politicians.
“The land we own is ours for as long as we choose to own it, unless it is stolen by the state,” he said.
This has already got a negative reaction in a comment on No Minister:
So for Federated Farmers, this election is about the absolute right of farmers to wreck the environment if there’s increased profit in it for them? And the rest of us don’t get a say in whether our countryside gets turned to shit or not? OK, got that. I’ll be voting Green after all, then.
Of course that isn’t what Feds or Brenmuhl is saying – but the way that he said it provides fuel for those who don’t understand farmers and farmers; and those who believe the green-wash about dirty dairying.
A recent Lincoln University survey found farming is percieved as contributing more to water pollution than sewage or storm water run-off.
Nearly half the respondents cited farming as one of the main causes of water degradation, followed by sewage and stormwater runoff – the first time those factors had been relegated to second place.
In the previous survey, done in 2004, only about one-quarter of respondents had blamed farming for poor water quality.
Federated Farmers environment spokesman Bruce McNab said many farmers used their streams for household water supplies, so they would not knowingly pollute them.
He said cows were viewed as the enemy of the environment, but noted the increased pressure for food production. The notion that farmers did not care for the environment was not true, he said.
But unfortunately Brenmuhl’s comments only add to the perception that most farmers don’t care for the environment. That perception not only makes it difficult for farmers in New Zealand, it could seriously undermine our reputation in international markets.