It’s Not What You Say …

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:

Psycho Milt said…

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.

4 Responses to It’s Not What You Say …

  1. truthseekernz says:

    Bremuhl’s comments made it VERY clear that he regards the environment as secondary to maximising profits. I don’t see any other way to interpret his remarks. His assertion of an absolute right to his land (no concept of stewardship acknowledged) and to water (no recognition of it as a shared / common resource) is well out of line with the mainstream. Society has come to see us all as interconnected and we all mus show respect for the rights of others in the earth, air and water we ultimately all share: the environment.

    I sincerely hope that Bremuhl is an isolated voice witin the farming community, but his high office within FedFarmers says that likely it NOT the case.

    In fact, this appears to be the backlash against being expected to share their part of the solution to the problems current methods of land and resource management have caused – including climate change.

    Charlie Pederson was similarly extreme. These “robber baron” characters are a hell of a long way from the thoughtful reasonable stance of FedFarmers in the Elworthy days.

    Bremuhl’s fails to acknowledge that NZ costs are MUCH lower than those of North American farmers, so why SHOULD Kiwis pay a North American winter price for their Summer milk? NZ herds are not limited by barn capacity in winter. They are not limited by the ability/cost of storing corn/grain in winter. There is NO grass in Canada and northern US in the winter. Bremuhl’s logic has been seen in places in Africa where the wealthy grow cash crops for export while the poor starve for lack of food. Bremuhl would have no problem with that. The most important thing for him is maximising profit, not being a part of the society that enables him to own property in security and be wealthy in the first place.

    The ideology he is espousing is the ideology of pigs. I have owned pigs. I know them very well.

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  2. homepaddock says:

    Bremuhl was expressing his frustration at how farmers are feeling but the way he said it invited a reaction like yours which assumes he doesn’t care about the environment. That isn’t what he was saying but I can understand why you get that impressions and that’s why I was concerned about the way he expressed himself.

    Bruce McNab’s comments are a more measured, and fairer reflection on the way Feds and most farmers see their responsibilities to be good stewards of the land and wider environment.

    If you want farmers to subsidise consumers when prices are high would you also be willing to have consumers subsidise farmers when prices are low? I wouldn’t, we learned the lesson about the stupidity of subsidies the hard way.

    If farmers weren’t paid the same for supplying milk to the domestic market as for exports they’d just stop supplying. Have a look at Argentina – the government there put a moratorium on exports to keep the domestic price low so farmers got out of dairying.

    Cost diffferences here and elsewhere are irrelevant – we don’t get paid more, and sometimes get paid less, when costs go up. Price is governed by supply and demand so when demand is high as it is now, the price goes up.

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  3. truthseekernz says:

    hp: Brenmuhl was utterly insulting about “townies” not being willing to pay for what he makes. Have you seen the latest? Mr. Brenmuhl does’t like market prices when HE has to pay them.

    http://truthseekernz.blogspot.com/2008/06/business-hypocrisy.html

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  4. […] It’s not what you say […]

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