New Zealand needs to start looking at the water issue much more strategically, according to National’s spokesperson on agriculture Todd Muller.
Muller says in his 20 years in the sector, he’s never seen things as bad as they are now.
Muller says farmers have a high level of anxiety about the future because they don’t know where things are at.
“In my previous roles at Zespri and Fonterra, I’ve been to hundreds of farmer meetings and right now I am going around the country talking to farmers,” he told Rural News.
“Usually when you go to meetings there are some anger and grumbles about performance or financial matters, but this is different. What is occurring is a consistent, persistent assault on farming and people’s ability to farm.”
Muller says when farmers are told they have to reduce the N loading on their farms by up to 80% they are perplexed and stressed and realise that they just can’t farm. He says as well as the environmental reforms farmers are facing they also have to deal with M. bovis, changes to the gun laws and myriad other issues.
He says it’s the cumulative effect of a lot of things.
“The net effect of that is a sector that is feeling very much under pressure in the sense that the Government doesn’t understand what it’s like to farm and to produce food.
“It feels like you are in the middle and that the people who are making the rules in this country don’t get what it’s like to farm and don’t understand the day-to-day variables. They don’t understand how emotionally farmers have invested in the businesses. Their confidence has been eroded and needs to be addressed,” Muller said.
He adds the other pressure coming on farmers is from the banks. Muller says there are increasing demands for farmers to pay down the principle on their loans and not just pay interest only.
He says all the banks have made it clear they want to reduce their exposure to the rural sector.