By Rebecca Flannery
It’s been a long time coming, but New Zealand once again has a voice in the World Farmers’ Organisation, with Federated Farmers immediate past president Katie Milne elected vice-president in Hungary recently.
The last time we had a representative on the world body’s top table was Dr William Rolleston, also a former Federated Farmers president.
The WFO is made up of over 70 national farmer organisations and aims to bring together all the national producers and farm cooperative organisations with the objective of developing policies which favour and support farmers’ causes in developed and developing countries around the world.
Katie Milne has served the WFO as a board member from the Oceanian Constituency since 2018. She says being vice president gives New Zealand a strong voice globally and ensures a better understanding of farmer’s needs, views, challenges, and solutions on a huge range of topics, from agricultural chemicals, climate change, livestock production, investment, finance and of course, food security.
“The main benefit for New Zealand farmers is that it is an international platform, taking the farmers voice to United Nations conversations and forums,” Katie said.
“This ultimately leads to policy makers at the highest levels, which means that governments including ours take a lead from those policy settings.”
The WFO sees farmers as key stakeholders who have a wealth of expertise to bring to discussions, the sort of input must be included if policies are not going to have unintended consequences that harm food production. Another important role is to help WFO members by increasing their access to support, including information, capital, and technology.
“Ideally delivering benefits to members that promote production, enhance productivity, and increase income.
“We can only be sustainable if we are profitable, and this must always be a part of the solution pathway to some of the challenges all farmers face today, all over the globe,” Katie said.
Growing WFO membership further is another important goal for Katie.
“We represent the most farmers in the world, but not all of them, I will help continue with the direction the board has implemented for growth and bring new ideas to the table.
“Farmers are incredibly pragmatic; show us a problem and we will want to fix it. We all want to improve productivity while lowering our environmental footprint, because farmers’ feed families.”
Katie’s speech to the General Assembly in Budapest:
Hello, I am Katie Milne, and I am honoured to be here standing for the role of next president of WFO.
My vision is simple – grow our member base, grow our effectiveness, and grow our reach in advocacy so all farmers can thrive.
Previous boards and the secretariat have laid a solid foundation and I want to expand on that success.
There are challenges we face – Climate change, animal proteins vs plant, lack of investment, returns from the value chain, and expectations from civil society on Biodiversity, Animal Welfare, Environmental stewardship and now food scarcity itself being on the doorstep of some of us, are just a few.
No challenge is more important than that of the pen that is not in our hands.
Effects from the climate policies themselves are driving up costs in ways that were not foreseen by the writers. An example of this would be fertiliser prices as they are intimately attached to fossil fuels in their production, delivery and application. As economies de carbonise these issues will need to be understood by policy makers and addressed so food scarcity does not become a consequence of the very climate policies that were supposed to protect people and food production.
But we cannot lose hope – each challenge represents an opportunity as well. We must highlight the issues and what they mean to our delicate food system and offer the solutions as we see them.
We must also lead the way on the emerging issues being raised in society like our impacts on Natures biodiversity.
To us it is not a new subject – We must strongly remind others that the only way to truly protect biodiversity and avoid food scarcity, is to let us farm efficiently and intensively yet sustainably so we can continue evolving alongside nature as we have done through the ages since the very first cave man deliberately put a seed in the ground and therefore invented farming.
Nothing will tug on the heart strings more of those who don’t farm than issues raised in this area. We have to get in front of the discussions and show we can be entrusted to look after nature for all.
These issues all seem insurmountable to the individual, but when we put our collective ideas and innovation together with technology, science and investment we can develop clear pathways and systems to find solutions or adaptations to any issue put before us.
Further development of our youth and women is critical. The gymnasium has been a great way to grow the leaders of tomorrow today. The passion, vibrancy and vision our young farmers for the future of agriculture is the most powerful tool we have to inspire policy to be enabling – they hold huge potential that we must continue to unlock.
It is one of our strengths we can come together in working groups and the GA to hear each other, and through debate and consensus form strong policies to guide us.
It is only when we understand our differences that we can go forward together indisputably as the one true global farmers voice.
Let me lead the new board as the first among equals to a strong future together!