OPINION: Andrew Hoggard, President Federated Farmers of NZ
Perfect example this week of the multiple fronts your elected leaders and paid staff work on to ensure farmers interests are heard in the media and by politicians, government agencies and others.
Tuesday morning saw the release of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with dire warnings that the impacts of global warming will accelerate without early action. Journalists were soon chasing for comment.
We took the chance to explain yet again that for us, it’s not just about cows, and it’s not just about New Zealand. One interview took place while I was feeding a particularly stubborn pen of calves, so also a good example of the multi-tasking we also have to do.
Helpfully, the IPCC gives recognition to an area of science that Feds has been advancing for several years: the current standard metric for measuring the global warming impact of methane is flawed. The reductions in livestock methane required to ensure no additional warming impact are in the order of 0.3% per annum, much lower than the targets the government has set.
Our messages won some good mileage in mainstream media.
The next day we had to react to news that a select committee has refused to grant an exemption for tens of thousands of rural and farm supply arrangements from having to register, and comply with, new water regulator Taumata Arowai. The official line was that it was “hugely disappointing”, but I’m in the midst of calving right now so I’m rather sleep deprived and on a short string, so my actual reaction is pretty much unprintable. This is just more totally unnecessary expense and confusion. I honestly feel like it is a case of the Beehive giving the middle finger to regional New Zealand. As you’ll know from an emailed advisory later in the week, we want farmers to swamp the Minister with correspondence in the hope we can turn around this lunacy at Supplementary Paper stage in the Parliament.
And then on the same day the bombshell findings from an independent review panel on Overseer: “We do not have confidence that Overseer’s modelled outputs tell us whether changes in farm management reduce or increase the losses of nutrients, or what the magnitude or error of these losses might be.” In short – as Feds has been saying for years – Overseer should never have been used for anything other than general on-farm nutrient use management. Certainly not as a regulatory tool.
We’re only just starting to pick through the fall-out from this report – what it means for those farmers whose investment decisions have been driven by rules and hearings outcomes underpinned by nutrient numbers from an inaccurate tool, and what it means going forward. Careful conversations are needed. Overseer has a place in the tool box going forward, but it isn’t the one tool to rule them all that some were trying to make it be. We do not want the government to be tempted by even more unpalatable solutions.
As I write this, notices of the next round of workshops on Freshwater Farm Plans and Low Slope Map Stock Exclusion Consultation have landed in the email inbox. Feds will also be well represented at these discussions.
This is what you pay your sub for. And why the greater the number of farmers we have in our fold, the more work we can take on and the more effective we can be.