Federated Farmers have put out a series of questions for Regional Council candidates. This election I decided to be a little critical of the approach the Feds are taking to the future of farming. Especially as they continue to defend the undefendable.
1. What economic growth initiatives would you champion as a councillor
Economic growth is nothing more than a simplistic measure of money flows. It measures nothing meaningful. Therefore I will not be championing any initiatives for economic growth.
What I will champion are initiatives that lead to resilience, sustainability, and prosperity for all of Hawke’s Bay. For example I would support an initiative to declare Hawke’s Bay as GE Free.
By declaring ourselves GE Free the primary sector is immediately able to brand their products as such and obtain a premium price in their respective markets. Consumers are crying out for GE product. Regardless of how some in the ‘agribusiness’ sector may feel, consumers do not want frankinfood.
By marketing premium product growers will be able to increase profit without placing any further strain on our environmental resources such as water and soil. That’s why I find Federated Farmers position on GE Free regions to be so out of touch.
Consumers value the story behind their food. Our clean green image is paramount. We have any number of environmental challenges on our plate that could easily damage this premium reputation.
If we need to change the way we do things then we need to change the way we do things. I have great faith in the farmers of Hawke’s Bay. They are typically innovative and up for a challenge. I know of no other industry where you regularly get together and critique someone’s balance sheet and analyse their day to day operation to spread knowledge. Long may it continue.
I would champion any endeavor that encourages a shift to more sustainable and resilient farming practices. I’m even willing to see the Regional Council contribute resources to such a move. I believe we will all be better off for it.
2. How do you balance that against the environment?
You assume that there is somehow a trade off between the environment and growing economic activity. There isn’t. The environment has fixed limits. Mother Earth has a limited amount to give.
I think we have reached this limit. Our rivers, lakes and oceans are in trouble and only getting worse. Climate change is happening and will only accelerate.
We need to change the way we are doing things.
That’s why I would champion any endeavor that encourages a shift to more sustainable and resilient farming practices. Being sustainable means we are living within our limits, and being resilient means we are better able to cope with change and disaster.
3. Do you see regulation of farming increasing, and if so why?
Human nature dictates that there will always be some who have little or no concern for the common good. I recognise that there are many farmers who are trying to do the right thing by our environment. But there are also some who are happy giving society the finger when it comes to environmental issues.
It is for this last group that we need to have increased regulation. In saying this, we should firstly ensure that regulations currently in place are properly enforced.
Regulations often include a ‘to completed by date’. There is nothing to stop a farmer meeting regulatory targets before the expected completion date. I appreciate that there are costs involved which is why such time frames are granted. But society is becoming far less tolerant of such excuses.
For example, during the recent Havelock North crisis, instead of attempting to deflect blame away from farming, Federated Farmers could have said they were going to encourage their members to meet stock exclusion targets earlier than that required under Plan Change 6.
Regardless of where fault for Havelock North lies Federated Farmers and Irrigation New Zealand missed an opportunity to prove that their members were prepared to do all they could to see that Havelock North does not happen again.
If farmers are concerned about increased regulation then they need their industry bodies to get up to speed with societies expectations. We want to be able to swim in our rivers. We want to take our dogs for a walk without fear of them dying. We want safe, unchlorinated drinking water. I understand that lobby groups are supposed to represent their member’s best interests. But is aggressively promoting the status quo the best that they’ve got? I don’t think so.