Federated Farmers is constantly working on dozens of different advocacy issues and projects that impact on farming and growing in New Zealand. Here are the main topics we are tackling at the moment, where we think we are making progress for our members … and a few where it’s a bit harder to see progress, but the voice of farming still needs to be heard.
We have a National Council representing all 24 provinces, and a Board of seven who work specifically on each of these issues.
They are all farmers and growers. They are supported by a staff of 55, more than half of them are policy people dedicated to understanding the impact of central, local and commercial decision making on farming.
Federated Farmers has about 13,000 members, farmers and growers producing a wide range of products across the country, including several members on the Chatham Islands. We also have a ‘lifestyle’ farm membership designed to help small block landowners understand their obligations, and how to handle them.
THE TOP THINGS WE’RE WORKING ON:
COVID-19 & ADVERSE EVENTS
The recent outbreak of the COVID Delta strain put all of New Zealand, once again, into an Alert Level 4 lockdown and it had Federated Farmers responding immediately to get any important information about operating in rural New Zealand out to farmers as soon as possible.
At Feds COVID-19 comes under the heading of ‘adverse event’ and we use a similar internal structure to deal with the pandemic as we do for earthquakes, floods or drought. Our main focus is to gather information which will be of use to farmers and growers trying to operate their businesses during or after an adverse event.
For COVID-19 both staff and elected representatives have been in communication via video calls from the start with officials to advocate for farmers and get information back to them. A COVID-19 page on the Feds website, which was made after the first New Zealand outbreak, is continually being refreshed with information and a webinar with an opportunity for members to ask questions about border exemptions and operating at Alert Level 3 was held on Monday 30th August.
Here is our media release on supporting local businesses such as butchers, greengrocers and bakers to open as essential services.
Federated Farmers has been looking to work with MPI and others such as Rural Support Trust to have a more secure response and recovery systems for events. This includes being a key contributor to the Feed Working Group and Feed Coordination Service as well as carrying out GIS mapping to get better scales on the impacts and costs of these events. An example of the work done during the Canterbury flooding events can be found here.
FOOD & FIBRE LEADERS FORUM
Federated Farmers is a member of the Food & Fibre Leaders Forum which is a regular gathering of senior farming leaders, with senior government politicians and officials, often including the Prime Minister, the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister for the Environment. The forum is an excellent pathway to the leadership of the government, and it is very useful for Feds to be able to talk – as farmers – to these officials and politicians.
Recent subjects discussed at these meetings include the Essential Freshwater regulations, winter grazing and farm management plans.
Essential Freshwater – The challenge for the Federated Farmers Water policy team has been to continue to work with Ministers and officials to educate them about dropping the worst aspects of the regulations or tweaking and changing others. There is still a huge amount of work to do in this area, to make farmers feel they will not be inappropriately captured by badly construed environmental regulation.
Taumata Arowai and the Water Services Bill –
Three Waters –
HE WAKA EKE NOA
He Waka Eke Noa is a coalition of industry bodies working together to help farmers and growers work through the process of accounting for greenhouse gas emissions on farm. Federated Farmers is committed to helping farmers and growers reduce their greenhouse gas emissions where it is possible for them to do so, without significant loss of productivity
Federated Farmers continues to be supportive of the ‘HWEN’ process, within the boundaries of the mandate set by our members and the policy agreed to by our National Council.
HWEN is about to begin a series of ‘roadshow’ consultation events with farmers at venues around the country. Feds will be at these events in support of the lead industry partners, DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb. The industry created He Waka Eke Noa and the industry stands by it as a better way forward for farmers and growers than a blanket ETS-style tax. We will continue to advocate for a ‘spilt gas’ approach and continuous improvement in research and development for assessing GHGs.
The biggest challenge facing New Zealand agriculture is working on understanding and managing on-farm emissions. We were happy with some of the work involving the Ag sector in the Climate Change Commission’s report to the government. Now we wait to see how much of that and the report the government will take on, in the mean time we worked with DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb to put together a resource for school students on the relationship between Climate Change and Food Security.
We believe in the importance of innovation, hence why we have been supporting the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium(PGGRC) since its establishment in 2003. Through PGGRC farmers have invested millions into the research and development of mitigation tools that could reduce agricultural emissions. As well as this we are a founding member of the He Waka Eke Noa partnership which brings together primary sector organisations, government and iwi to measure, manage and reduce agriculture emissions without compromising food production. Read more.
All 78 regional, city, and district councils have been working on their Long Term Plans which is a 10 year budget of spending and rates, Policy staff worked hard to submit on nearly every council’s LTP and now wait for the Local Government Review which was announced by the government in April. Read more and stay tuned…
Federated Farmers has been working with industry partners to allow more skilled workers across the border. After an advocacy campaign which included asking members to write to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Immigration about the desperate need for workers in the dairy sector the government announced space for 200 skilled dairy workers. Applications are currently open to fill these spots. Read more.
In November 2019, the Government released a draft National Policy Statement – Indigenous Biodiversity for public submissions, with a second draft being released recently. Farmers currently do a lot to manage, protect, restore, and enhance biodiversity on private farmland. Federated Farmers believes that the biggest gains for biodiversity will come from non-regulatory approaches and heavy regulations could result in production loss and an increase in costs. Read more.
A Rural Connectivity Survey was sent out at the end of August 2021 with data collected being used for any further proof to the government of the need for the funding of rural connectivity. This will include reliance upon banking services, which are currently phasing out, and use of internet for emissions reporting and precision Ag. Read the last survey summary and stay tuned…
The current outbreak of TB in Hawkes Bay has raised questions around systems and processes to prevent the spread of the disease in or around vector control areas. This has been the case with other biosecurity issues and meetings to contribute to a Biosecurity Act Review will take place in the second half of 2021. Federated Farmers will be contributing to this review. Read more.
The Climate Change Commission’s report to the government included advice on forestry both native and exotic, for our thoughts on their advice go to page #32 of our submission. The government has announced it will do a long-awaited review of the Overseas Investment Act’s Special Forestry Test, led by the Treasury. Consultation is supposed to start in the second half of this year. We are exploring options for addressing afforestation, but we are struggling to identify options that do not adversely affect our members. Stay tuned…
RESOURCE MANAGEMENT ACT (RMA)
NBA – Natural and Built Environments Act: Federated Farmers is concerned about the potential for the changes to create significant and unnecessary uncertainty and impose substantial costs on councils, resource users, and communities. We believe the draft NBA is incomplete and extremely light on detail, this means our task critiquing the draft is near impossible. Without full details we cannot properly understand the interpretation and application of the proposed wording, as well as understanding timeframes and transition arrangements. Members can read our thoughts here.
Vice-President Karen Williams led a Federated Farmers team presenting to the Environment Select Committee on August 26th asking government not to push through an RMA reform during the COVID-19 pandemic.