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.
WE ARE WORKING ON:
COVID – 19
Federated Farmers has worked closely with others in ‘Team Ag’ in order to deliver information for farmers and rural communities in the face of the spread of the Delta variant of the COVID virus.
There has been work on what self-isolating on farm would look like and this was discussed between ‘Team Ag’, MPI and the Ministry of Health. This has resulted in a checklist that will help farmers and growers prepare for the potential of someone on their farm contracting COVID. This checklist is available on our website.
As the pandemic took a turn in New Zealand with the outbreak of the Omicron variant, there was continual changes and adaptations of restrictions and rules around isolating, testing and business continuity.
New Zealand agricultural businesses are timely and essential and Federated Farmers has continued to drive this message back to government.
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.
The Federated Farmers adverse events team was stood up quickly and efficiently with the severe weather that hit the Buller region in July and the recent flooding in Gisborne.
The team continues to be developed and improved so that, when needed, resources and knowledgeable people can be rolled out immediately with the ability to pass on correct information and make the necessary contacts for all farmers, not just members.
The policy refresh happening within the organisation includes a review of our adverse events team so that goals in this space can be met.
The biggest challenge facing New Zealand agriculture is working on understanding and managing on-farm emissions.
He Waka Eke Noa – Measuring, Managing, Reducing and Pricing Agricultural GHGs
Federated Farmers remains a partner in the industry and government collaboration programme ‘He Waka Eke Noa’ which is held to the expectation that from 2025 there will be a farm level system of accounting for, managing and pricing farm emissions and sequestrations.
After the release of the Draft Engagement Document which provided information on the three options (The ETS or “Backstop”, Farm-level levy and Processor-level Hybrid levy) Federated Farmers began it’s internal consultation with a series of Zoom sessions, surveying and listening to members. A ‘Policy Presents’ webinar was hosted for members which you can find on our website here and then two sets of feedback was submitted to the He Waka Eke Noa Steering Group. Feds also produced a podcast with our HWEN Steering Group representative Cameron Henderson – it’s only 6 minutes long and explains the process so far. Listen here: FedTalks.
The final discussion document will be released at the start of February 2022 for farmer consultation and a decision must be given to the Minister of Climate Change James Shaw by the end of April 2022. Federated Farmers has worked hard to stay in the HWEN discussion, and try to advocate for the best possible scenarios for measuring, reducing and pricing on-farm emissions without hugely impacting productivity. The current pricing policy options are the result of compromise and we have serious concerns with key aspects of both options. It will ultimately be the Federated Farmers National Council who decides whether or not we continue to support the He Waka Eke Noa process if changes are not made.
New Zealand’s Emissions Reduction Plan
In preparation for their response to the Climate Change Commission’s final report (released June 2021), on 13 October 2021 the Government released its draft Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) for public consultation. Submissions on this wide-ranging consultation close on 24 November. The draft has a particularly strong focus on energy and transport. We will be submitting.
The Government had until the end of the year to respond to the CCC with legislation but has amended the Climate Change Response Act to push this deadline back to 31 May 2022.
We worked with DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb to put together a resource for school students on the relationship between Climate Change and Food Security.
IMMIGRATION & LABOUR SUPPLY
As every industry that utilises international workers knows, the COVID-19 border restrictions have had a massive impact on workers coming to New Zealand and the ability for existing international workers and their families to stay on to work in the primary industries.
One of the focus areas of the Federated Farmers immigration team for 2021 was lobbying for the 2021 Residency Visa to get across the line. The new one-off visa is now available for most migrants who were working in agriculture in New Zealand on 29 September 2021. This is a huge win for farming labour supply and will help to retain the skilled international workers in the sector especially given the ability for their family members to also come to New Zealand.
A 3.4 per cent unemployment rate, the lowest it’s been since 2007, and closed borders means New Zealand has had massive labour shortages on farms. Surveys and farmer sentiment has shown that labour shortages in the dairy sector remains a significant problem that cannot be filled locally.
Federated Farmers continues to work with DairyNZ, Immigration NZ and MPI to allow more dairy staff to be let into the country during 2022. We have also helped to successfully lobby for agricultural machinery operators, veterinarians, shearers and wool handlers to fill employment gaps in the meat and wool and arable industries.
The dairy industry is calling for another 1500 international dairy workers to be let into New Zealand for the 2022 dairy season, based on concerns that staff shortages are affecting farmer well-being and therefore animal welfare. Federated Farmers does not see how farmers will cope with another calving season if we cannot get the skilled staff needed into the country.
We are also seeking a guarantee of MIQ spaces so that these exemptions can come into the country when the workers are needed. Immigration remains a highly changeable space and the threat of new COVID variants and uncertain border settings continue to restrict access to the much-needed international workforce.
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.
On 7 October 2021, Federated Farmers made submissions on proposed changes to the stock exclusion regulations concerning the low slope map, the intensive winter grazing regulations, and proposed regulations for freshwater farm plans.
A submission on changes to wetlands regulations was prepared and submitted on 27 October. See the webinar we held on this topic here.
After considerable feedback from Federated Farmers and others in ‘Team Ag’ the Government has proposed loosening some of those conditions, which we support. However, there are still some areas where the proposed changes do not go far enough.
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
The Water Services Bill received Royal Assent on 4 October. While we did not achieve what we wanted, staff and our National President were invited by the Minister to attend a meeting held on 31 August where we were assured both in person and in writing that compliance with an ‘acceptable solution’ would remove requirements for small suppliers to develop a water safety plan and complaints process. The timeframe for registration would also be extended to four years and compliance to seven years.
We are now working with the new water services regulator, Taumata Arowai, to develop workable ‘acceptable solutions’.
Three Waters reform
Federated Farmers is opposed to the government’s decision to make it mandatory for the water, stormwater and sewerage infrastructure of 67 local authorities to be vested in four new mega water entities. Our chief concern is that genuine local say in water infrastructure and investment, and accountability to those who pay the bills, will be severely diluted under the proposed new system.
Regional and District Councils have been undergoing their Representation Reviews with some beginning the process of adopting a Māori ward.
The provincial presidents and regional policy team have been all over these with majority supporting the establishment of Māori wards as long as rural representation wasn’t being compromised. For example, the Gisborne District Council had a split view on the retention of rural wards and the Feds team in this region fought hard. It has only recently been announced that this work, along with others’ contributions, was successful and the rural ward for Gisborne District Council will remain (subject to potential appeal).
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 includes reliance upon banking services, which are currently phasing out, and use of internet for emissions reporting and precision Ag. Read the Rural Connectivity Survey 2021 results here to see more about what locations are struggling the most with internet connection and mobile coverage.
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 2021 advice report to the Government included advice on forestry both native and exotic, for our thoughts on their draft advice go to page #32 of our submission. The Government then responded to this advice report with their Draft Emissions Reduction Plan in late 2021, we also submitted on this plan. In this draft plan the Government stated that if it decides to make changes to the treatment of forestry in the ETS, it will do so by the end of 2022. The Government has also announced it will do a long-awaited review of the Overseas Investment Act’s Special Forestry Test, led by the Treasury. Consultation was supposed to start in the second half of last year.
We are exploring specific policy options for addressing unsustainable blanket afforestation, and will undertake a thorough internal policy development process. Stay tuned…
RESOURCE MANAGEMENT ACT (RMA)
NBA (Natural and Built Environments Act)
Federated Farmers strongly recommends that comprehensive public consultation is undertaken once the full draft of the NBA is available (and before it is referred back to Select Committee for a second time). Feds has a range of concerns with the reform legislation, including the risk that the useful aspects of the current legislation will be dumped along with the bad, and that planning control will be taken away from democratically elected local Councils in favour of new regional committees.
National Environmental Standard for Sources of Human Drinking Water
There was a meeting held with officials on 5 October 2021 which was attended by our National Board member spokesperson Chris Allen and our policy person Nigel Billings. Our main discussion point was implications for small rural water supplies