Farmers aren’t on strike

July 5, 2018

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

May 24, 2011

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?

June 23, 2009

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.

Quite.

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?

June 23, 2009

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

October 20, 2008

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

October 7, 2008

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

October 6, 2008

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.


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