The Hound reckons Fonterra must have one of the largest teams of spin-doctors and PR hacks in corporate NZ.
These wise words did not come from a farmer or a rural contractor, as they well could have, but the American mathematics professor and author Johan Allen Paulos.
One only has to consider the uncertainties that dominate the agricultural sector – commodity price forecasts, the weather or even the recent political dramatics in this country – to find sympathy in Paulos’ quote.
First up, commodity prices. The recent round of soothsaying from various economists, bankers and commentators paints a reasonably consistent message on the outlook for various agricultural commodity prices. The consensus seems to be that dairy looks positive, beef steady and lamb – especially in the lead-up to the pre-Christmas chilled trade – remains strong.
But we know that all these predictions can change at the drop of a hat, especially in the economic and political uncertainty now prevailing worldwide.
Another area of uncertainty for our sector is the weather. It is fair to say that rural contractors and farmers nationwide have had a difficult and challenging year thanks to the weather. However, as we head into the busy part of the year it seems the climate gods are starting to play ball as hay and silage making gets into full swing.
Speaking of uncertainty and unpredictability, the recent election result – and the vagaries of MMP and Winston Peters – left the country in a state of political flux as we waited for the formation of the new government.
Mr Peters’ decision to form a coalition with Labour and Greens was greeted with some trepidation by those of us in the rural sector – especially given some of the rhetoric of the coalition partners during the election campaign. However, it is now a reality and Rural Contractors NZ is happy to engage and work with the new coalition government on the issues important to us – immigration, attracting young people to work in our sector, transport and workplace safety regulations, to name a few.
Like many in the rural sector, I was concerned about the way some of the political parties seem to be targeting farming and further expanding the rural/urban divide during the election campaign. I hope that as the dust settles after the election campaign the new government will get down to working for the benefit of all New Zealand – including the farming and wider rural sector.
It is now more important than ever that organisations like Rural Contractors NZ take a lead in ensuring that the wider New Zealand public appreciate and value the importance of the agricultural and farming sector to the country’s economy and society. After 21 years as an organisation RCNZ’s goal remains the same: to be a valuable and influential advocate for our members; we will continue to do this.
Meanwhile, in your travels, please watch out for pest plants, especially velvetleaf. This is now a major problem in Waikato/South Auckland and in North Canterbury and Southland. If you are working in any of these areas you must thoroughly wash down your machinery before going onto new properties. Rural contractors must play our part in stopping the spread of these weed pests.
And remember that we need to keep health and safety issues – for ourselves and our staff – top of mind as many of us crank out long hours and days at this of the year.
• Steve Levet is an agricultural contractor based at Wellsford and president of Rural Contractors New Zealand (RCNZ), the only national association for rural contractors in the country.