OPINION: The biggest issue currently facing our industry is environmental policy, writes Beef+Lamb NZ chief executive Sam McIvor.
The survey by UMR Research found less than half (46%) of farmers were confident in the future of New Zealand’s sheep and beef industry compared to 58% in May 2020.
Meanwhile, the percentage of farmers who expressed low confidence in the industry was up compared to last quarter at 15% (up 6%).
Farmer confidence was down in all regions except for the Northern North Island where it remained steady at 47% (up 1%).
The southern South Island experienced the largest fall in confidence at 32% (down 27%), followed by the central South Island at 42% (down 19%), and eastern North Island at 50% (down 16%).
“Sheep and beef farmers are increasingly concerned at the speed and scale of government-led reforms,” says Andrew Morrison, chairman of B+LNZ.
“We are hearing that a key factor behind the fall in confidence is the government’s recent essential freshwater rules, but also concerns about the cumulative impact of law changes in the last couple of years such as the Zero Carbon Bill, and changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme that has led to a surge in the conversion of sheep and beef farms into carbon farms.”
Farmers are also worried about the potential impact of significant policies such as bio-diversity, which have been parked until early next year, he says.
Other things affecting confidence are the lingering impacts of drought across parts of the country and uncertainty in export markets as a result of COVID-19.
“Sheep and beef farmers recognise they have a role to play in improving their environmental performance, they have made significant gains in a range of areas in recent years and know there is more to do.
“But farmers are concerned the policy settings in areas such as freshwater and proposals on biodiversity are not workable or practical at a farm level, nor will they necessarily lead to better environmental outcomes.
“We want to work with the incoming government on improving the rules that have already being introduced and then focus on their implementation.”
UMR Research surveyed 660 farmers between 21st August-9th September 2020. The margin of error is ± 3.8%.