Federated Farmers is hoping for changes to the Department of Conservation's (DoC) high country grazing rules in the aftermath of two recent big wildfires in the Mackenzie Basin.
These are some of the changes that the Federated Farmers president and Manawatū dairy farmer, Andrew Hoggard, is hoping to bring during his three year tenure. Hoggard was elected unopposed as president at a virtual AGM last month.
He says being president of the farmer lobby group is the final phase of a long journey which has seen him progressively move up the ranks of the organisation over many years. Hoggard says over the next three years Feds will focus on some key policy areas and he says there are no surprises as to what they are.
“Water, RMA, biodiversity, climate change, biosecurity – those are fairly highly ranked. In the next tranche there is the economy and commerce and trade and that one might even move up the rankings,” he told Dairy News.
“There is pretty tough sailing going forward, economic wise, for the country and so what’s that going to mean for agriculture? You have got quite a lot of people talking protectionist stuff so it’s going to be defending that free trade position, that thankfully has been quite bipartisan for NZ, and making sure that sticks and that we don’t move back on that,” he says.
Hoggard says policy staff at Feds are going to devote their time and effort to these areas. He says board members will obviously be speaking to these issues and responding to questions and queries. But rather than just reacting all the time, Hoggard says he’d like to see the federation be more proactive and have a better thought process on the issues.
According to Hoggard, there is a lot of talk these days about the need to add value to the basic product produced on farm, but he says there is also a need to make sure that such a philosophy is not adding more unnecessary costs. He says some of the things that farmers are being asked to do are things they do already and he says there is ‘tick the box’ mentality creeping in, which is not always fit for purpose.
“We are just being asked to tick boxes to, in effect, prove what we are doing and sometimes the boxes we are expected to tick aren’t that easy to tick because they don’t quite fit in with how we are achieving the outcomes that are desired on farm.
“I personally got caught out because, although I was doing more than was asked of me, I didn’t tick a particular box, which is just stupid. I’d like us to see us spend more time talking about those issues and making sure the debate is centred around what is realistic and putting an authentic farmer voice to it,” he says.
With this in mind, Hoggard says he wants to see an improvement in connectivity in rural areas and greater use of technology to minimise compliance. He says at present much of the cost of compliance is not so much making the changes on farm, but proving that this has been done.
“To me ticking boxes sucks the fun out of farming. I think that so many people get worn down by the feeling of compliance and not just doing but proving it by having to fill in all the forms. We went farming because we like being outside, fixing fences and moving stock, the fresh air and just feeling the peace and solitude – not to sit in an office and type out something for the 20th time to please some bloody clipboard carrier. To put it succinctly, I want to put the fun back into farming,” he says.