An astonishing 26 Labour MPs are descending on the Fieldays.
If they are there to talk at farmers and the business people who service and support them, they would be better staying away.
If they are there to listen they must be prepared to hear a lot they won’t like because there’s so much government policy that farmers and farming businesses don’t like.
I haven’t experienced this level of rural angst since the ag-sag of the 80s when farmers were kicked into the real world without subsidies.
In North Otago that coincided with recreated droughts, stock prices plummeted, land prices followed and a lot of us went from reasonable equity to owing more than the value of what we owned.
There was security in numbers. A relatively few were pushed out but banks and stock firms knew that forcing too many sales would only compound problems and left most of us to farm our way out of the mire.
I don’t know any farmer who wants subsidies back and now prices for most primary produce are at levels all but the most pessimistic are happy with, the rural mood ought to be rosey.
But it’s not.
The appreciation of farmers for keeping the export income flowing when so much of the rest of the country was locked down has evaporated.
KPMG’s head of global agribusiness Ian Proudfoot explains:
. . .There was an underlining theme of low morale and fatigue among those surveyed, caused by labour shortages and shipping delays, he said.
“We expected with prices being high, dairy prices being high, kiwifruit returns higher than they’ve been, excellent red meat returns, that we were going to be walking into an industry that would still have quite a lot of that glow of last year, of the essential food producer.
“But the reality is, I think this has been an incredible hard year on people, on our executive teams, on our leaders, and it’s taken a toll.”
The industry was focused on its day-to-day challenges, instead of making the most of a “global food renaissance” emerging rapidly around the world, Proudfoot said.
Too many of those challenges are being caused and made more difficult by government policy.
As DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said:
. . .I don’t know who’s making these calls but I have to say, if you’ve got middle level bureaucrats sitting at their desk in Wellington, they do need to remember that their decisions will affect real people.
“From the limited information I’ve seen, it is difficult to draw conclusions as to the logic behind the decisions that were made last year on who gets [exemptions] and who doesn’t. . .
He was referring to immigration decisions. It also applies to a lot of other decisions being made by people in Wellington that results in policy that is impractical and will impact badly on real people, making business, and life, harder for farmers.
They also don’t appear to understand that all these decisions which are already impacting on both morale and production will sooner or later impact on prices for consumers and on export income.
If all these MPs descending on Fieldays want to show they understand they need to listen to the people they meet and be prepared to act on what they hear.