Farmers must unite - no farms, no food!

United we stand, divided we fall.

All sounds too familiar! Well you had better believe it, because farming as we know it is, and will be, under ever increasing pressure from the non-farming residents of this great country.

I was fortunate enough to attend the Large Herds Conference at Mystery Creek, and hear all the excellent speakers, including those from overseas. The conference was captioned "People, Passion & Purpose".

I came away enlightened, enthused, but worried about how New Zealand agriculture might look, and how it is going to resist the changes that are being ramped up by all those "Do-gooding", "PC", "Vote catching" politicians. Put alongside them Fish & Game and an anti-farming lobby and New Zealand agriculture has a potential problem.

Unfortunately we are in a culture of "if it is going to get more votes, let's bring it on". Things already proposed and resisted by agriculture (thank goodness) include the Fart Tax (cows actually belch), land access, and now dog micro chipping, where will it all end.

Fish & Game and the Green Party all want to put pressure on the farmers to reduce nitrogen phosphorous that goes into our waterways. That's fair enough and understandable too and I think that every farmer in the country supports that philosophy.

Professor Martha Roberts (University of Florida) presented on how they had resisted and worked with Government and the Anti-farming Lobby in Florida. In their country they found that farming only put 5% nitrogen loading into the lakes, and the balance largely came from the people.

Farmers need to be doing "Best Practices", thinking about "Triple Bottom Line" (which is economic, social and environmental) and we need all of us to be doing our bit for the environment. And "care" we will, with Fonterra leading the charge and taking responsibility to work closely with the farmers to reduce effluent emissions.

The Professor also said that we need to keep immigrants to a minimum, take care of our borders and keep pests and diseases out. Florida for example, gets four new diseases annually and incredibly, four new bugs per month. These bugs have never been seen before and they wonder where they come from. Sheep and beef farmers and all sectors of agriculture need to look at the issues and have "Best Practices" going on.

The big issue is unity, or lack of it. A lot of pressure is and will come on agriculture in New Zealand. Our dependence on agriculture as an economy is huge. It will be agriculture that pulls us through this impending gloomy period. If there is one weakness with the New Zealand's economy, it is the dependence on the agricultural sector to support the large and growing urban base.

We need to get one body to represent all sectors of agriculture. That body would report and liaise with Government, Fish & Game etc. It would have representatives from all sectors of agriculture, dairy, beef, sheep, cropping, horticulture, Federated Farmers, etc. It would meet regularly, and be funded by the various groups it represented.

It would be the "one voice" to beat back any possible onslaught that could come. It would be about liaising, communication, leadership, trust and work closely with the Government. It would create a brand for agriculture, of which we would all subscribe, but most importantly be proud of.

It would take us forward in unity, because united we can stand, and divided we will fall.

In summary

New Zealand agriculture needs to unite and embrace one leadership group. We need to create a brand and be proud of our rural endeavours. We need to do this before an Anti-farming Lobby tells us what to do and weakens the financial base of this great country.


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