Greg Anderson (South Canterbury) is one of six new provincial presidents elected during the recent annual general meeting season around Federated Farmers’ 24 provinces. We catch up with him on his background and motivation:
What’s your background and farming and where do you farm?
I’ve lived most of my life in the Fairlie basin. I grew up on a family farm with three brothers who were equally keen on farming and four doesn’t go into 200ha. Got into farm ownership through hard work and leasing several properties with one of my brothers. My wife Sandy and I have spent the last 19 years on a sheep and beef property at the head of the Fairlie basin, which we sold at Christmas time and I’m now taking a different direction in life. I’ve bought a small place and I’m just doing things a little bit differently, including putting some time into the advocacy space. That’s my “why” for stepping up to provincial president of Federated Farmers.
What are the top three issues on your mind?
Succession in the industry: I think we’ve got a real problem in the sheep and beef industry, and even in dairy, getting young New Zealanders into farming whether it be through succession or training.
Poor treatment: The government has been remiss in the way they treat agriculture, being missing in action on investing money on teaching and helping people advance in the most important sector in this country. Across the agri scene we probably haven’t done enough to encourage the next generation to get into or stay in farming.
Successive governments have been a wee bit guilty of thinking it’s a sunset industry. The pandemic has just underlined how important the primary industries are to the economy.
Regulations: Every farmer is worried about this. Regulations are coming at us thick and fast, many of which are stripping farmers of property rights. I believe in protecting our environment but there’s got to be some reality here, human beings have been making an impact on the environment for 50,000 years and in New Zealand, probably 1000 years. We can’t turn the clock back at the click of the finger just to appease people’s ideologies. All farmers want to achieve what’s best for the country, but we’ve got to do it in a fair manner, and we can’t just put the cost on one small group when it’s a national problem.
What do you think/ expect to happen next?
I think there might be a bit of a wake up coming on what all the new policies and regulations are going to cost us as a nation. New Zealand farmers have been very innovative over the years and have done some incredible things with the way we farm. If we keep undermining that confidence, they will not have the ability or the desire to try and improve the industry.
What would you say to rural communities that are struggling?
Just keep your heads up. Agriculture has always had outside problems that have been tough on us. Most of us survived the end of subsidies, and now we continue to lead environmentally sound production against trading partners who still heavily subsidise their farmers, or protect them with tariffs.
What feedback have you received from this community in South Canterbury?
There are the nay-sayers who claim Feds aren’t doing enough. And then there are the people who join us, stay up to date with our activities and understand the approach we take. Without Feds we would have no voice to front parliament. Rural New Zealand is a minority in the overall scheme of voters. And without a strong lobbying organisation I think we would really struggle.
What are you doing to help?
Stepping up to this job.
If you were in charge how would things be different?
My personal philosophy on life is, we need to be more realistic. It’s great having great ideas and being ideals driven but sometimes you’ve just got to look at things from the hard reality of life. If you’ve got $100 that’s all you’ve got, you can only spend $100. Successive governments and district and regional councils think they can spend more. It should be about meeting New Zealanders’ needs not their wants.