Feds Chief Not Out To Win Friends

June 26, 2008

When I was a child, every meal began with grace. I suspect relatively few families do that now and even if they did I don’t think they’d be taking any notice of Federated Farmers out-going President  Charlie Pederson:

“Folks in the city need us more than they know,” he told the federation’s annual conference in Christchurch today.

“Three times a day as they sit down for a meal every New Zealander should say “thank God for the producers”.

And he suggested than when people sat down after a meal, in front of their large flat screen TV, they should also thank God for exporters “because without them this proud little nation would be the largest third world country in the South Pacific”.

He’s right about the importance of producers and exporters but this isn’t the way to get support from those who fail to appreciate that.

Mr Pedersen, a dairy farmer, railed against the “cruelty” of Resource Management Act, which regulates environmental standards for use of land, air and water.

The RMA needs some attention – but it’s not because it regulates air, soil and water, it’s the way it does it which is the problem.

“Food producers are on the brink of feeling unloved and unwanted in this country,” he said, speaking in the wake of complaints that the nation’s 10,000 dairy farmers are being attacked for their intensive style of agriculture.

And public comments like his introductory ones are part of the reason for this.

Mr Pedersen said today there were untruthful people who would brand farmers as “profit-driven people, unconcerned about our environmental footprint”.

“Much of the contempt we face as food producers is falsely based,” he said. He particularly criticised the “hypocrisy” of consumers living in unsustainable cities who demanded farmers accept responsibility for the environmental effects of production.

He’s right that much of the criticism is not based on fact and there is an element of both ignorance and hypocricy from critics. We have only one world, we all need to look after it and it’s best to address the logs in our own eyes before worrying about the specks in other people’s.

Another approach would be for consumers to share the cost of Kyoto and a better environment by paying an extra tax on all food.

“The proceeds of this tax could be used to help New Zealand food producers to buy carbon credits and compensate for property loss under the RMA,” suggested Mr Pedersen.

“Such a tax would have the double benefit of keeping New Zealand food producers viable and still producing in New Zealand, and allowing all New Zealanders to share the responsibility”.

No thanks – we’ve already got too many taxes and compliance costs and a subsidy by any other name is still a really bad idea.


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