BakerAg open letter on water policy

Chris Garland, a director of BakerAG has penned an open letter to government:

The Prime Minister:   Jacinda Ardern

Minister for the Environment:   David Parker

Minister of Primary Industries:   Damien O’Connor

Minister of Health:   David Clark

Dear Ministers

BakerAg NZ Ltd has been providing business consultancy to the rural sector for over 35 years. Morale among our farming clients is now as low now as it was in the Rogernomics years of the late 80s and during the GFC. The difference in those earlier years, is that farmers still felt valued by the NZ public.

This government’s approach to environmental policy is undermining the mental health and well-being of the pastoral sector. Government has contributed strongly toward turning the NZ public against farming, which has had a severe impact on farmers’ self-esteem and on their ability to cope with a rapidly changing policy environment.

As examples, the Zero Carbon Bill and the National Freshwater Policy Statement are having a profound impact on the pastoral industry, which has compounded over a short period of time.

The terms of trade in the sheep and beef sector are some of the most buoyant seen for the last 20 years, yet there is a malaise among these farmers that emanates from a sense of worthlessness. The dairy industry is struggling to recover from a three-year downturn, it’s had the M. Bovis outbreak to deal with and is now seeing a withdrawal of support from the finance sector.

How does the government expect to achieve behaviour change from constituents who are dejected and feel alienated from society? Ministry of Health statistics confirm that mental health in the rural sector has deteriorated significantly over the last five years. The government must understand that its own actions are exacerbating this decline.

It’s a sad situation that some of the governments $1.9 B investment into NZ’s mental health will be needed to counter the impact that this government has had on farmers’ mental state. One of the leading initiatives of the Wellbeing Budget is to “Take Mental Health Seriously.” This Government’s actions are having a negative effect on the mental health of a large section of the community.

Farmers are not environmental vandals. They are a business sector that has found itself at the centre of a maelstrom of environmental concern. Most of these concerns around water quality and greenhouse gas emissions are legitimate. But farmers didn’t set out to deliberately degrade water quality or to produce GHGs. These are unintended consequences of their business activity, which until recent years, had been wholly endorsed by the nation. It took 150 years to get to this position. It will take more than five years to achieve environmental sustainability.

One of farmers’ greatest attributes is that they are problem solvers. Give them a problem and some tools, and they will find a way to fix that problem. It’s this ingenuity that has made NZ farming some of the most efficient in the world. The food they produce is regarded as being of the highest quality throughout the world.

Farmers now recognise that there is a problem with the environmental impact of their activities. They want to fix this. But they are not being given an opportunity to find their own solutions. Instead they have been subject to a relentless dialogue of rhetoric, regulation and rejection.

The farming community has not been recognised for the positive efforts that a great many land owners have gone to mitigate their environmental impact. The negative public view of the sector has been influenced by government dialogue. This is not the way to change behaviour or effect policy.

If this government is genuine about improving mental health and genuine about motivating farmers to address environmental issues in their industry, it should:

  • Give landowners credit for the progress that has already been achieved in environmental management (exemplified by Ballance Environmental Awards competition, the Ahuwhenua Trophy, QE II and Nga Whenua Rahui covenants, and Country Calendar subjects).
  • Acknowledge that there is an environmental conscience in the farming sector.
  • Provide balance in the accountability message: urban, industrial, domestic, pastoral.
  • Acknowledge that the pastoral sector makes a valuable contribution to the NZ economy.
  • Ask the sector how it believes environmental expectations should be met?
  • Give the sector an opportunity to develop and implement its own solutions.
  • Assist in developing tools and methodology.
  • Work with them.

CHRIS GARLAND

Director

On behalf of BakerAg NZ Ltd

www.bakerag.co.nz      

References to the ag-sag of the 80s is not hyperbole.

Our local, The Fort at Enfield, hosted a lunch to raise funds for prostate cancer on Wednesday

. Around 100 people were gathered and conversation kept coming back to how hard it was in the 80s and how much worse what’s being imposed on farming is now.

The changes of the 80s were tough, but necessary and based on economics.

The changes the government is threatening to impose on farming now are tougher and based on emotion not science.

Reports from consultation meetings are making matters worse. MfE has underestimated turnouts so venues are too small and those fronting them aren’t able to answer technical questions.

Comments like this from the Minister for Agriculture don’t help either.

Rather than blaming the messenger he should be listening to the message and trying to understand the very real concerns that farmers and those who service and supply them have.

P.S.

BakerAg produce the weekly AgLetter. You can subscribe to it here.

Jamie Mackay interviewed Chris Garland on The Country yesterday.

3 Responses to BakerAg open letter on water policy

  1. Murray Roxburgh says:

    Garland was interviewed on Hosking this morning
    This is serious stuff as the disconnect between rural and Urban is sponsored by all the melon thinking minions of the appointed CoL, when both need each other more than ever.
    It is ironic beyond belief that as Suicide reduction is put away the recent pronouncements by Nosy must give pause for thought for the safety of all rural folk, from a largely hidden scourge that Garland’s open letter may well indicate becoming exacerbated.

    As a child our home was constantly invaded by children and youth both Family and friends where a glimpse of much of the stress and hardship was exposed beyond the Rustic Rurality of a Constable Painting.
    Wonderful as it was as entertainment The Darling Buds of May was rather false as a depiction of the rural life I recall.

    Health and Safety in the workplace and just the ongoing rush to be more efficient make such interaction almost too difficult and that is a sad facet of modern life.

    If Damien O’Connor is the best option for any reversal of Parker’s attacks (why do the Green melons exist with him in the trench), then Farming of all persuasions are justified in revealing a plunging confidence if they have a future.
    I well recall the truly awful prospects faced by the farming industries when Roger Douglas jerked the rug of government assistance, correctly imho, from farming. Having a surname well down the alphabet gave sufficient breathing space to replace income to ward off having the loans called in but for many that was not an option for many due to a host of factors.

  2. adamsmith1922 says:

    Reblogged this on The Inquiring Mind and commented:
    Well worth reading and thinking about

  3. Roger Barton says:

    I’ve been receiving Chris Gs Ag Letter since it started 20+ years ago.
    Great insights and useful info always.
    Two sues ago I remarked to my wife that Chris had, for the first time ever, made comments bordering on being political. I support his letter to Parker and others.
    I am extremely disappointed that Damian O’Connor saw fit to apportion the negativity in all media to commentary from farm consultants and the rural media itself.
    Damian is clearly out of touch with the constituency that he purports to represent. I’ve dubbed him Damian O’Gonner.

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