As well as laying out its new strategy, Fonterra should make clearer how it got into this trouble, says Federated Farmers national vice-president and dairy farmer Andrew Hoggard.
The Manawatu dairy farmer previously chaired the dairy section, a role taken over by Waikato dairy farmer Chris Lewis. The Feds board is yet to meet and only then will Hoggard find out his portfolios.
He says farming now faces the particular difficulty of having too many areas and catchments where dairy and sheep and beef farmers are pitted against each other. This is particularly so in Waikato, and tensions exist elsewhere between livestock farmers and horticulturalists.
Hoggard says this needs to be resolved and by working together to get the best outcome.
“Who knows what the future holds? Today I may be wearing blue overalls and gumboots, but it’s the farm I am tied to, not the clothing.
“There may come a time when dairy no longer gives us the best return for our land and we may be looking at other things. We must look for sensible solutions in the long-term interests of people who own the land, rather than short-term industry-type solutions.”
Hoggard knows of people who have planted 10ha of kiwifruit on their dairy farms.
On his own farm he may, one day, wind back the dairy and probably do a bit more beef. If his daughters take over the farm they may have other ideas as well. The main thing is to think long-term, he says.
He promises as vice-president to be the straight-talker he has always been, especially to fellow farmers.
“I’m not afraid to tell people what they need to hear. I could do the popular things for people and jump up and down, but by doing this I would be on a hiding to nothing because I want to tell them what I am going to do on my own farm – preparing for what’s coming. The most sensible thing is for me to tell my fellow farmers that this is reality.”
This requires a mixture of leadership and advocacy, and presenting the situation to make sure sensible, practical, affordable, smart and commonsense outcomes are achieved.
NZ dairy farmers face the same problems as dairy farmers worldwide, Hoggard says. The anti-dairy vegan lobby and animal rights groups are strong worldwide and not unique to NZ. Environmental issues are also common to dairy farmers worldwide.
“In NZ it is water quality, overseas it’s more climate change and biodiversity,” he says.