Responding to challenges - Mark Adams, President Sth Canterbury Federated Farmers

The South Canterbury Federated Farmers October Newsletter features an article by Provincial President, Mark Adams, in which he reviews the wide variety of challenges being faced by farmers this spring.

He writes:

Hopefully, by the time you receive this newsletter we will know the formation of our next Government, but, as I write this report, one week after the election, I am still unsure who it will be. Whoever it is inherits an economy that is performing well and a country in which many of us are proud to live, as evidenced by the number of ex-pat Kiwis returning home.

The incoming government also has some work to do to repair the damage inflicted on the rural community during the bruising election campaign. Some of the cheap shots fired at our expense regarding environmental issues have undermined a lot of the good work currently underway by farmers. We are well into a process where farmers are gaining a better understanding of how their farms connect to their catchments. We are using science to help develop tools and strategies to help mitigate any adverse effects and actively promoting good practice.

This process is both time consuming and expensive. Politicians making expedient claims that seem to have been lapped up by a largely ill-informed public have done rural NZ a disservice. Pushing back into this emotive space is difficult without coming across as defensive and entitled. It is also difficult packaging good science into a sexy sound bite.

However, push back we must. We all have a role to play in inoculating the mistrust and ignorance that this election has played on. We need to be conversant with the current environmental conversation and the role that our farms and farm management play. We also need to think about how we can tell our stories better conveying all the good work that is being done.

Canterbury is prospering off the back of our very clever use of water. Business invests because of the stability and consistency that that water brings, jobs are created and communities flourish.

However, we are also aware that in using water there are some unintended consequences that require us as stewards of the land to attend to.  We need to be proud of what we do, proud of what we contribute but most of all we can be proud of how we are honestly fronting our issues, owning them and looking to implement practical, workable solutions.

My last comment on the election is to express my frustration with the Green Party. There are many issues, but in particular their view that in politics the environment and social inequality are left of left.

In NZ we are an outdoors people who like to see everyone be given a chance or a fair go. These two issues are closer to the centre of our national psyche than the Greens seem to realise and if they are not prepared to have a mature conversation with National and explore a blue-green option then they are destined to be a fringe voice ever reliant on Labour and in future, struggling to be relevant. Fundamentally Blue-Greens recognise that business has to be profitable in order for it to fulfil its social and environmental obligations. Germany and Sweden are examples of where this relationship works.

Mycoplasma Bovis has been an unwelcome distraction this spring. Even though MPI moved quickly there has still been a lot of uncertainty around stock movement and especially movement of service bulls. The sheer volume of testing undertaken to date will be giving MPI a clearer picture of our current status and they will be gaining some confidence from the volume of data collected. We need to trust that MPI is responding appropriately and we need to rely on its advice going forward.

At the appropriate time we will debrief the response and see where we can be better if/when an incursion next occurs. At the time of writing there is still no answer as to how Mycoplasma got here, this is troubling.

After a wet winter and spring the province is set up for a good production season. The Opuha Dam is full as are the aquifers and subsoils. Prices are also buoyant with good global demand for much of what we produce. Long may this continue!