Farmers aren’t on strike


When I skim read a headline I thought it said hundreds of farmers were walking off the job.

They aren’t:

The nation need not worry today – the farmers that produce your food and the lion’s share of the nation’s export earnings still got up at the crack of dawn today. While those that work at the Farmers department store, that started as a sears-type mail order catalogue for rural customers, may be on strike today.

Federated Farmers employment spokesperson Chris Lewis confirmed the nation’s farmers have not walked off the job.

“Having no source of income is a frightening reality – hence farmers work.”

Farmers, the department store was founded by Robert Laidlaw CBE. Laidlaw was born in Scotland and emigrated to Dunedin when he was a boy. In Auckland he founded Laidlaw Leeds, a Sears-type mail order catalogue for rural customers.

This later merged with older The Farmers Union Trading Company to become what is now Farmers Trading Company Ltd, the last remaining nationwide chain of department stores in the country.

In all seriousness, we hope both sides of this issue can soon find a middle ground and everything can get back to normal for everyone involved.

“Strikes can be mentally damaging for those involved so during this time we hope everyone keeps an eye on their health.” . . 

The media release which sparked this story is here.

Labour does favour for National and farmers


Labour’s promise to force farmers into the Emissions Trading Scheme in 2013 has done both the National Party and farmers a favour.

It’s good for National because it’s further proof that Labour has declared open season on farmers. That will make it much easier to get support for the blue team not just from farmers but also from those who work for, service and supply them and anyone else who understands the importance of the primary sector in this country.

Just how damaging the policy would be is spelt out by Beef + Lamb NZ:

Including livestock emissions in the ETS, in isolation from every other country in the world would be economic suicide for New Zealand and could spell the end of the sheep and beef sector in this country, Beef + Lamb New Zealand is warning the Labour Party.

Responding to Labour’s election year announcement that it would bring agriculture into the emissions trading scheme in 2013 and use the money to fund research and development tax credits, B+LNZ Chairman, Mike Petersen said the policy would penalise an $8 billion sector that is heavily supporting New Zealand’s export led recovery.

“At a time when a strong export sector is even more vital to New Zealand’s economy, we have Labour harking back to old ideas and their previously held view that farming is a sunset industry.

“What is most insulting is the proposal to use the emissions tax to fund R&D credits when the pastoral sector is already contributing significantly to climate change research and in fact is the only sector which has set up its own consortium (Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Consortium) to do so.

“What Labour seems to be proposing is to use the pastoral sector’s money to fund research for other industries that have not invested in climate change science.

“If that isn’t irksome enough for sheep and beef farmers, Labour seems to have completely forgotten that the sheep and beef sector has reduced its GHG emission levels significantly below Kyoto Protocol requirements and has so far produced carbon credits worth over $800 million dollars which have been pocketed by the Government.”

Bringing in livestock emissions would impose unsustainable additional costs on sheep and beef farmers, already under assault from massive farm input price inflation that has reached a staggering 41% over the previous 10 years, Petersen said.

“And let’s be clear, farmers are already in the ETS – they pay it on fuel and energy just like every other New Zealander. They are also investing in mitigation technologies but until there are viable tools for sheep and beef farmers to use to mitigate emissions on farm, it’s crazy to penalise them when no other country in the world is putting on-farm emissions into an ETS,” Petersen said.

Sheep and beef farmers through B+LNZ are funding the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium and with other sector organisations have invested $37 million since 2002. The Consortium is developing solutions for methane and nitrous oxide mitigation.

“Labour’s policy is effectively imposing cost on the sheep and beef sector which will make us uncompetitive in global markets. B+LNZ estimates of the cost to sheep and beef farmers under the Labour legislation was over $40,000 per farm at a carbon cost of $25.00 per tonne.

“In turn, this will ruin an iconic export industry, destroy our vibrant rural communities and, most ironically, lead to increases in global emissions when carbon efficient livestock production in New Zealand is replaced by comparably inefficient farming in other countries,” Petersen said.

If Labour’s policy is so bad, why is it good for farmers? 

Because it’s reinforced the government’s position that animal emissions won’t be taxed under the ETS unless other countries do it too  and there’s almost no chance of that happening in the next couple of years, if at all.

New Zealand’s agricultural sector won’t face the cost of the emissions trading scheme in 2015 unless other countries come to the party, Prime Minister John Key says.

The Prime Minister told reporters at his weekly post-Cabinet press conference New Zealand can’t “throw our biggest export earner to the wolves” by bringing agriculture under the ETS without other countries doing their part.

The government will only include agricultural emissions if farmers have a“reasonable chance” of competing internationally.

The sector was given a holiday from inclusion until 2015, though that’s only if a review, due in July, recommends requiring agricultural emissions be covered by the scheme.

“The test is whether other countries join them,” Key said.“We don’t live in some magical little world, where New Zealand can impose whatever costs it wants and say that that has no impact on our ability of our exporters to compete.

“We have the only unsubsidised agricultural sector in the world, and you don’t see our farmers moaning about that, and nor do you see any political will to change that.”

Labour isn’t suggesting bringing livestock into the ETS to reduce emissions. Its primary motivation isn’t environmental, it’s to raise more taxes.

The anti-farmer rhetoric in the past week suggests it has a secondary motivation to punish primary producers for political reasons and drive a wedge between town and country.

In doing so it will produce a gap which National is willing and able to fill.

If not the market then what?


Europe “should not leave the food industry in general, and the milk sector in particular, just to the law of market forces, which is the least social, ecological and economic law,”  . . . 

That’s the  French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier urging his EU colleagues to listen to protesting farmers in Luxembourg.

He was responding to EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel.

 She had no magic wand to address their grievances, she said.

She implicitly criticised countries such as France and Germany for continuing to question the decision to lift quotas.

“It’s dangerous and irresponsible to foster unrealistic hopes on what we can do,” she said.


If it’s not left to the market it’s up to governments and what can they do?

Government means the taxpayers who are also the consumers who’d pay more if quotos were lowered or producers subsidised.

Goverments have a role in welfare but any interference by them in the marekt will merely prolong the pain and delay the recovery.

Would you like sex with that?


The answer from a Dunedin man who heard sexually explicit lyrics in piped music while shopping with his 10 year old daughter in Farmers didn’t.

An overreaction?

I don’t think so and, to their credit nor did the store. Farmers responded to the man’s complaint, agreeing the lyrics weren’t acceptable and said their music policy would be reviewed.

Piped music tends to wash over me, unless it’s too loud in which case I do my best to get away from it. But such is the power of music, tunes and lyrics can sneak into your head even when you’re not listening.

People playing music in public spaces need to take a precautionary approach to this and ensure we can shop without the risk of hearing things best listened to in private.

Although, perhaps that’s not easy with modern music. While station surfing in the car I’m unpleasantly surprised by how often I come across lyrics on the radio that I wouldn’t want young children listening to and wouldn’t choose to listen to myself.

Perhaps it’s time to bring back The Seekers 🙂

Cullen apologises to farmers


Most maiden speeches sink without a trace but Michael Cullen’s is still remembered in farming circles because of a jibe he made and yesterday on Agenda he apologised for it:

As the new MP for St Kilda, Dr Cullen said: “I’m proud of the fact that my secondary education was not paid for by the taxpayers of New Zealand but by the farmers of Canterbury and Hawkes Bay [he was given a scholarship to Christ’s College]. I ripped them off for five years then, and I shall get stuck into them again in the next few years.”

Dr Cullen told Agenda: “Oh, don’t go back to that, that was one of the most embarrassing … I want to apologise for that because what happened there was that somebody broke a longstanding convention, interjected on me one minute into my maiden speech, which was pretty unfair.

“I was wound up like a wire. This is my maiden speech in Parliament, you could have twanged me and I’d have played a whole concerto.”

“I want to apologise”  is hardly fulsome, although to be fair Agenda wasn’t the time or place for that.

However, the damage was done long ago and the fact it’s taken him this long to acknowledge he shouldn’t have said it means the suspicion he meant it will continue.

More time on forms than farm


Does this sound familiar?

Ask any farmer, and the complaint is the same: “Bloody paperwork. I spend more time filling forms than I do looking after my animals. It drives me to distraction.” I’ve heard those self-same words more times than I care to remember (Magnus Linklater writes).

It could be New Zealand and any business and I suspect it’s the same the world over however, the writer is referring to farming  Britain.

You can read the rest of the column here.

Farm lessons for Finance Minister


Farmers tend to be financially conservative because they know many of the factors which impact on their businesses are out of their control.

No matter how good they are at what they do on farm  they are always to a greater or lesser extent at the mercy of the weather, the markets, the value of the dollar and other off-farm factors.

That’s why they use the good years to prepare for the bad, making and storing supplementary feed and investing in things which will make their farms more productive, efficient and better able to withstand the bad years.

Michael Cullen isn’t a farmer but he was a historian so he ought to have known that the good times never last and been prepared for a downturn.

He should have made sure we had hay and silage to spare, soil fertility at its peak, stock in good health, repairs and maintenance up to date and money in the bank for contingenices.

But instead he’s overgrazed the paddocks, made only a little hay, ignored the need for fertiliser, bought toys instead of tools, painted the fence posts but let the wires sag, and employed too many people who are decorating the office and not enough working in the fields.

The country’s books are being opened as I type this and they’re expected to be in the red.

He can blame the drought, international commodity prices and the credit crunch, and he’ll be right. But only partly right, because had he not squandered the good times we’d have been far better equipped to deal with the bad.

He’s been a fair weather Finance Minister. He failed to make enough hay while the sun was shining so we can’t trust him with the farm now it’s raining.

Early emissions cuts will crucify farmers


Farmers would be crucified if Australia cuts its greenhouse emissions before its major trading partners acted.

This is the view of Dr Brian Fisher a former federal research chief and greenhouse negotiator who said:

Australian Federal Government’s emissions trading scheme would slug farmers and other exporters with carbon costs they couldn’t pass on to overseas customers.

A new global agreement on cutting emissions was still “decades away “and Australia will have no influence on other countries by going first”.

“If we choose a target ahead of other countries, we’ll crucify our trade-exposed, emission sectors, we’ll roast them all on a spit,” Fisher said.

“There’s absolutely nothing to be gained by going first. We are climate-takers, not climate-makers. We’ll have no influence by leading with our own policies.”

“Why would we do that? You can just imagine the secret smiles of our competitors, who will no doubt be looking after their own national interest.”

If Australian farmers are going to be in trouble it will be much worse for New Zealand farmers and as a result of that our whole economy.

Darker dawn doesn’t do it for me


This Sunday the clocks go forward an hour, far too early for postponing sunset by an hour in the evening to make up for losing an hour of light in the morning.


The trade off between lighter dawns and longer dusks has escaped the people who pressed for daylight saving to be extended, as has the knowledge that early spring and late autumn weather, down here in North Otago at least, is rarely warm enough to enjoy outdoor activities in the evenings.


People further north don’t benefit from the long twilights we get in the south and there is sense in postponing sunset to enable everyone to enjoy lighter mid-summer evenings. But I strongly oppose the plan to start daylight saving a week earlier and finish it a fortnight later.


One argument for extending daylight savings is that other countries have longer with the clocks forward than we do, but that doesn’t take into account longitude and latitude, which affect when the sun rises and sets, and temperature. Australia is further north than us so has fewer hours of daylight in summer and more in winter than we do. It is also a continent so heats up more quickly than our islands and it is closer to the equator which also makes it warmer than us.


When our hotter neighbour doesn’t introduce daylight saving until November why would we rush into it at the end of September? Last year when the clocks went back as early as they ever had because October 1 happened to be a Sunday, it was very cold and not just in the south. There was snow in Hawkes Bay and temperatures further north were more akin to winter than spring.


All the arguments for extending daylight saving are about leisure, which is important. But so too is work and farmers find it difficult to do what has to be done early in the morning when it is still dark. By the end of September the sun rises here at about 6 15, then the clocks go back and it is dark until after 7.00.


There is a similar problem in autumn. It is pitch black at 6am from the middle of February, the sun is not rising until after 7.00 by early March and extending daylight saving until the end of March the sun doesn’t rise until about 7.30 in North Otago, nearly 8.00 in Dunedin and later still further south. That’s much the same as it is in mid winter.


It is not just farmers but their children who have problems with dawn that late because many will be going to catch school buses in the dark.


That’s a high price to pay for an extra hour of daylight in the evenings, when for the first and last few weeks it coincides with the dinner hour for most people anyway.


I accept the benefits of daylight saving which allows more evening light in mid summer so we can play but in spring and autumn we need more early morning light so we can work.


Sunrise and sunset times for the main centres are here (with standard time) and here  (adjusted for daylight saving).


Poneke puts the case for the negative here.


Silver lining


As eyes anxiously turn to financial markets I’m reminded of the silver lining to the cloud of the 80s’ ag-sag.

Few farmers were hit by the 1987 share crash because their equity had plummeted and most had neither the credit or cash to invest in the share market.

SFF wants to resume merger talks


Silver Fern Farms’ directors want to resume merger discussion with Alliance Group.

They have written to Alliance directors with their request and to Alliance shareholders explaining what they are doing.

I don’t fancy their chances because just this week Alliance chair Owen Poole told Rural News the opportunity for meat industry consolidation had passed.

SFF and PGW’s proposed partnership makes a merger between SFF and Alliance even less appealing and other parties in the industry, such as Affco and Anzco, have moved on.‘The opportunity for industry aggregation has passed. What we are going to end up with, potentially, is SFF and PGW together, and the rest.’

SFF chairman Eoin Garden and PGW chairman Craig Norgate have both made it clear they would like Alliance to be part of the partnership.

Poole says he has had a ‘brief, high-level discussion with them’ about that possibility but it remains unappealing.

He has ‘a whole page’ of reasons for that, but the key concerns are loss of farmer control, the corporate/cooperative hybrid model, and that Alliance is already vertically integrated.

 One of SFF’s selling points has been that there is no Plan B. But Alliance begins three weeks of shareholder meetings next week and that will provide the opportunity to show they have an alternative.

‘Alliance, in terms of sheepmeat, is now the biggest player in the country with only six plants, and eight in total… its done its rationalisation. SFF still has 20 more plants.’The cut in lamb numbers will create ‘competitive tension’ in procurement, he predicts, but whether that will be a greater war than before, he is unsure.
Farmers keep criticising the industry for procurement battles and the Sunday night ring-around. However, the solution to that lies not with the companies but the farmers. Loyalty is a two-way street and if farmers want loyalty from the company they must be prepared to give it as well.

The letter to shareholders follows: Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t have to be Green to be green


He had been drinking and there was something about his eyes that suggested he had been popping outside to smoke something other than tobacco, but there was no doubting his conviction.


“If you’ve got any concern at all about the environment and the future of the planet you’d have to be Green,” he said.


I told him that was like me telling me he couldn’t be a Christian unless he was a Presbyterian. He didn’t get the analogy, nor did he believe it was possible to share his concern for the environment without supporting his politics. While he is not necessarily representative of the Greens his attitude helps to explain why his Party’s dealings with farmers do little to dampen fears of their policies and agenda.


There is an evangelical zeal to some of their pronouncements and beliefs which makes many who share their concern for the environment uncomfortable. This discomfort is increased because much of what they stand for and advocate is at the radical left end of the political spectrum, not just in environmental matters but in social and economic areas too.


However, it is possible to be not just concerned about, but committed to improving the quality of our air, soil and water; conserving scarce resources; and generally minimising our environmental footprints while also supporting free trade and an open economy.


The Green missionary in the bar couldn’t accept that conventional farmers can be environmentalists too, but when our land is our biggest asset it is in our best interests to look after it. And if they can’t credit us with doing this for its own sake there is also a strong financial motivation for implementing good environmental practices. Increasingly competitive markets and sophisticated consumers are demanding proof that the food they eat and fabric they wear come from clean, green farms.


With a higher value on quality there are financial gains from being green, but some struggle to realise the reverse is also true and that environmental improvements do not just come from, but require, better financial returns. Attaining and maintaining high standards of air, soil and water quality is not cheap. It takes a lot of money to conserve native bush; plant trees to provide shelter, reduce erosion, counter CO2 emissions; fence then establish riparian strips along water ways and do all the other things necessary for environmental protection and enhancement.


It may be a cliché, but it is still true: good farmers are not land owners; we are stewards with a very real responsibility to ensure we look after it for future generations. And when we are faced with evidence, day by day, year by year, that literally and figuratively we reap what we sow; it is easy to understand why we must be green. Although contrary to the belief of the bloke in the bar, that doesn’t mean we also have to be Green.


$728m student election bribe


The country is facing recession, galloping inflation, the public cupboard is nearly bare and Labour is considering a $728 million student election  bribe to give students a universal allowance.

 The policy would enable about 47,000 fulltime students now ineligible for an allowance to receive taxpayer support and would be the biggest single boost to student incomes since the allowance scheme began.

Tertiary Education Minister Pete Hodgson said yesterday that in January this year he instructed Education Ministry officials to cost a universal student allowance.

But the subsequent paper produced by officials “should not be construed as a signal the Government intends to introduce such a policy”.

“The paper was prepared in order to get a better understanding of what the real costs of a universal student allowance would be,” he said.

The paper shows that removing income tests on the allowance and providing it to all fulltime students would cost a total of $2.09 billion over four years.

The net extra cost of such a plan is $728 million after the existing costs of the scheme are removed, along with a forecast plunge in borrowing under the student loans scheme that might accompany such a plan.

There are inequities in the current scheme which is based on parents’ incomes. But a universal allowance is not the most pressing need in an overstretched education system.  

Students have long campaigned for a universal allowance and such a scheme is party policy for both NZ First and the Greens. UnitedFuture backs extending allowance payments to all students aged 20 and over.

The students campaign has been based on several misaprehensions including their claim that they are the only ones who have to borrow to live.

Many people in owner-operator businesses borrow to live. Dairy farmers receive monthly payments but sheep, beef and cropping farmers pay for all their inputs then wait months to get any income, borrowing seasonal finance to get them through until they sell their stock, wool or crop.

It is understood Labour has also considered increasing the allowance to as much as $350 a week, but this has been ruled out as too expensive.

And $728m is not too expensive?

A universal allowance would echo Labour’s king-hit, interest-free student loans policy in the 2005 election campaign, which was credited with turning around the party’s polling and sending thousands of voters to Labour.

Only 57 per cent of students receive the allowance, which is $122 a week for those under 25 and living at home, $153 a week for those living away from home, and $184 for those aged over 25.

That is because the allowance is means-tested on personal income and, for students under 25, their parents’ income.

It is ridiculous that people under 25 can claim a benefit regardless of parental circumstances while students needs are judged on their parents’ income. But why not lower the age to which students have their allowances set by what their parents earn and offset the cost by increasing the age at which beneficiaries are regarded as independent?

Measures announced in this year’s Budget included a 10 per cent increase in the parental income threshold, lowering the age for parental income testing to 24 and increasing the amount students can borrow for living costs from the student loans scheme by $5 to $155.

Under Labour, the number and value of allowances paid to students have continued to fall.

Ministry documents show that since 2001 the number of students eligible for an allowance has plummeted by 32 per cent as parents’ incomes have risen sharply, pushing many above the threshold for the allowance.

There could be a case for raising the parental income threasholds.
 A study by market researcher TNS Conversa revealed average student debt has risen by 54 per cent since 2004 and is now $28,838.

 The ministry says a universal allowance would lead to a substantial reduction in borrowing under the loans scheme.

No doubt it would but that still doesn’t justify spending $728m to do it when the case for universal allowances is far from compelling and there are many more pressing needs for the money.

Recession Similar But Positively Different in Provinces


Brian Fallow  quotes Split Enz: History never repeats.

There is always some difference that makes a difference. But the similarities can be instructive, too.

A couple of Reserve Bank economists, Michael Reddell and Cath Sleeman, have been looking at six previous recessions in New Zealand – the imbalances which preceded them, what triggered them and what made them worse.

They draw no conclusions about the situation now, beyond saying that “there is nothing in the material in this article to suggest any greater reason for optimism” than the downbeat view expressed in the bank’s June monetary policy statement.

They note the mitigating factors – fiscal stimulus and commodity boom – but say these factors “have much to mitigate”.

By my count 12, maybe 13, of the 17 recessionary factors they list are at work now, two of them – a global credit squeeze and a large rise in oil prices – in spades.

The recession which made the deepest impression on me was that of the mid 1980s. There are several differences between then and now.

Our economy was a mess before then – subsidies, tarrifs and import duties protected producers and manufacturers and increased costs for consumers; just about everything was regulated and/or taxed. Then came the 1984 Lange Government and Roger Douglas’s first budget.

Subsidies ended and farmers were brought kicking and screaming into the real world. The dollar was floated and rose on the back of high interest rates – at one stage we were paying more than 25% on seasonal finance –  inflation raged, commodity prices fell but tarrifs kept the price of inputs up and the labour market was still heavily regulated.

North Otago was particularly hard hit by the ag-sag because too many farms were too small to be economic anyway and there was not much irrigation so we were forever suffering from recurring droughts. At one stage it cost more to transport stock to the freezing works than they were worth. Property prices plummeted and a lot of us were technically bankrupt, owing more than the value of what we owned.

As farmers retrenched those who worked for, serviced or supplied us were hit too and the problems spread to provincial towns. Meanwhile cities were booming on the back rising property prices and the sharemarket. It was only when the market crashed in October 1987 that cities began to feel the country’s pain.

A lot of economic fundamentals have changed since then. A small economy like New Zealand’s will always be at the mercy of international factors, but thanks to those “failed policies of the 80s and 90s” we are in a much stronger position to withstand the worst impact of them.

Another difference is that this time the problems are starting in the cities and, the impact of drought aside, the country is still doing well. Even though sheep farmers have had an appalling season, falling income has been cushioned by rising land prices.

While people are worried about what’s happening elsewhere, the North Otago economy is still growing and property prices are rising. There hasn’t been an empty shop on the main street for a couple of years and a retailer told me he’d paid more GST in the past two months than at any other time since he’d been in business.

People on low fixed incomes, and some earning more, are struggling with steeping rising prices of fuel and food. But the district’s economy as a whole is benefitting from development associated with increased irrigation and the dairy boom.

If we are in a recession right now, as many economists believe, it won’t be official until the June GDP figures are released in September.

And if the statistics mirror anecdotal evidence they will show that this time the recession is starting in the cities and the picture in the provinces is sitll pretty positive.

Porn in the Paddock


Most city people who move to the country adapt well, but there are always the odd exceptions who can’t, or won’t, understand that agriculture and horticulture are not nine to five businesses; and that necessary activites aren’t always quiet and sweet smelling.

City slickers considering a quieter life in the country be warned: farmers are not going to stop their early morning milking or their dogs from barking so you can get a good night’s sleep.

And some daytime farming practices aren’t exactly seemly:

Waikato Federated Farmers president Stew Wadey said he had fielded a number of complaints from newcomers unused to the smells, sounds and sights in the country.

“We’ve had a straight-laced person from higher society move into a lifestyle block and she was appalled that we had a bull servicing the cows, which is obviously a natural process. She complained it was provocative and pornographic.”

Benefits of Blogging


Bernard Hickey has become an evangelist for blogging. 

Let me explain why after 19 years as a journalist I’ve never been so excited about being a journalist and why I think blogging will over time become the main venue for political and other debate.  It will also become another way for communities to form and for people to talk to each other about the things that matter.

I share his enthusiasm and agree with his reasons. But one advantage that he doesn’t mention is that what you write is what people read without editing by someone else.

I know subs are lovely people who sometimes save journalists from themselves by correcting potentially embarrassing, stupid and/or litigious mistakes. But sometimes they also take your carefully worded prose and leave it the worse for their intervention.

I was taught to write news stories so they were structured like an inverted pyramid with the most important points at the start. That meant if lack of space required some cutting the sub could start at the bottom without ruining the story.

Columns are different from news stories in that the point often comes at the end so the concluding words are as important as the intro.

The worst subbing of one of my opinion pieces was many years ago and simply chopped the middle from it so the intro was no longer connected to the end and the phrase which made sense of the headline was lost.

The cut to my offering in Paddock Talk  today was minor by comparison. I’d concluded it by saying:

The taskforce has hired PriceWaterhouseCoopers to prepare a strategy report which is expected to take 12 weeks. That may seem a long time for farmers desperately seeking a solution to their own problems, but as the cheese advertisement says, good things take time and a strategy which leads to a healthy future for the meat industry will be a very good thing indeed.

Somewhere between my outbox and publication the last 19 words disappeared, which probably doesn’t matter to anyone except me, especially now that events have over taken what I was writing about.

The Meat Industry Taskforce was disbanded today. Federated Farmers  has a press release expressing disapointment and the grapevine is buzzing but I haven’t been able to find anything in the media about it yet.

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.

Carbon Farming Website


The Carbon Farming Group, a charitable trust funded by the Tindall Foundation has some sobering information for farmers on the impications of the Emissions Trading Scheme.

 I put some top-of-my-head figures in the calculator and discovered that a dairy farm with 1200 cows and 50 hectares of radiata pine would be liable for $46,000 a year.

 A farm with 20,000 sheep and 50 hectares of radiata would pay $ 55,000 a year.

 Cut down the trees and the liability for the dairy farm is $74,100; and $82,500 for the sheep.

 The obvious lesson is to plant more trees, but in an increasingly hungry world replacing pasture with forest is not a sensible strategy. And even with more trees the ETS will impose big costs on farmers, some will have to be absorbed and some will flow on to consumers which will make food even more expensive.

Would You Trust This Survey?


I was wondering how some of the people even made it to the list of most trusted New Zealanders when I read the fine print – respondents were asked to rate 85 well know people on a scale of 1 to 10 as to how much they trusted them.

The ranking which put VC winner Corporal Willie Apiata at number one (replacing the late Sir Ed Hillary) is here. Peter Snell, Colin Meads, Margaret Mahy and Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell follow him.

 The list of most trusted professions is here.

Farmers are the 13th most trusted occupation, between dentists and police officers in 11th equal place and scientists and chidlcare providers in 14th and 15th.

Journalists, sigh, are at 34; between taxi drivers and psychics/astrologers.  I’m not sure there is any comfort in ranking just above real estate agents, sex workers, car salesmen, politicians and telemarketers who take the 36th to 40th slots.

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