Peter Kerr says our pastoral farming is an exclusive romantic brand, has the reassurance of science and is completely non-commodity. Is he right?

By Peter Kerr*

I’ll be the first to admit that the frilly, intangible, non-scientific aspects of what and how we produce our agricultural products can be a tricky little number to get your head around.

Much of what we’re good at doing as a nation is hard-edged, ‘proven’ – be it across on and off farm technical performance, engineering disciplines, the All Blacks even – all those things that you can measure and monitor.

But, for a moment let’s just sit and accept these quantifiable aspects.

What else does our agriculture offer?

In a word (and now it may get really uncomfortable) – ROMANCE.

That is, in a world that for most people (especially the ones with discretionary disposable income) is urban, concrete, and pressured, we represent an ideal.

We represent an image that is matched by a reality.

We are both olde world and modern; a ‘place’ where you have to work alongside nature using modern (including digital) tools, that still involves the type of honesty inherent in getting your hands dirty (literally). And, in a modern working world that mostly occurs inside a building, the thought of working outside, producing physical outputs by combining a range of inputs (climatic, prices, scientific, gut-feel) is a wonderfully beguiling thought.

Put another way, (modern, as opposed to peasant) farming, the way we do it, offers a back-story for the piece of meat in a supermarket, that very few other products can.

It is an image and reality that resonates with the heart.

But the fact that we haven’t named this (back) story means we can only deal with the cold, hard facts of matter. That’s all head stuff – and at that level all you’ve got to compete with is price.

My argument is, at an NZ Inc level, the moment we publicly and globally claim the mandate as being the world’s best at responsible pastoralism by naming our story, we provide ourselves with a completely offer to the world.

We would, in fact, step out of where we are now, and like the best movies, offer romance.

That we back this elusive romantic notion with the reassurance of science is totally synergistic, completely non-commodity. But maybe the idea of romance is naïve and unrealistic for our agriculture. Are we therefore doomed to remaining stuck in the mud?

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Peter Kerr is a writer, specialising in simplifying science and technology. He has an agricultural science and industry background. You can contact him here »

This is the eighth in a series about pasture Harmonies.

The first one Branding our pastoral advantage is here »

The second one We're the only protein production systems that can say VISIT is here »

The third one Taking it for granted is costing us is here »

The fourth one Thinking beyond the actuality of how we produce is here »

The fifth one For want of a name ... is here »

The sixth one The way you'd farm if you farmed yourself is here »

The seventh one, more than the sum of its parts is here »

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21 Comments

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Oh please, enough already of this romanticized bollocks, you ever spent time on a large dairy unit in the middle of spring?
We are well past the point of trying to romanticise modern farming in a system geared to supplying bulk commodity at a (near) lowest global price....small scale UK farms would have an easier time telling a rustic digitally assisted peasant story than ours would when 40% here are struggling to even pay the bills under our existing system....

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Agreed.
 
At least your comment remains (for now) - mine on this contributor's propaganda get censored/deleted.

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I think the tide is slowly turning - as indicated by the bigger and more desperate lies needed to maintain the neo-classical economic belief system. 

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The NZ  National party believes the future of farming in NZ is corporate, have a read of our future
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smithfield_Foods

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And what did I say three years back here A.J.....BingF*#*ingGo.
 Corporatisation was always the agenda.

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Peter Kerr's image of Kiwi dairy farming isn't resonating with the reality in your heart ?
 
...... he should write for Mills & Boon !

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Do they do tragedies?

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He seized her , in his strong manly arms ..... Clarabell felt a flush upon her cheeks , and a quiver of expectant excitement rippled through her udder  as he raising the cups to her fulsome teats ..... she knew she could not hold back , she must offer up her milk , all of it , to this strong irresistable masculine force .....
 
..... ah , the romance of the 5 a.m. milking !

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i want to know how it ends

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...... she was spent , fully exhausted .... she had given her all , and knew that she had satisfied her man like no other could ...... she pressed her blood engorged ruby red lips up against his ear , and whispered " moooo ! "
 
Moos & Boon : The Dairy Chronicles .

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Peter Kerr says our pastoral farming is an exclusive romantic brand and is complete comedy.

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"moooo ! ".......wow ! it just sounds so much better than " Baaaa ! " makes a man feel a mite less sheepish too.
 Are they going to pen a Watershed Down ..?

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AJ - National is not the only political party with that belief......and that leaves NZ'ers with very limited options left in the tick box on election day.
 
 

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mist42nz,
 Who are  'The friends of Fonterra who recieved   %100 of their requested share allocation'?
Is this the Banks or just some form of mepotisim?
Not living in NZ Im finding it harder to keep up with whats happening, afaid it doesn't look good for you lot.
 
Andrewj

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This article may explain the situation for you AJ.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/business/8054297/NZ-Inc-put-out-about-Fonterra-allocation
 
Eligible ex Fonterra suppliers had to have ceased supplying milk after the initial TAF vote (which was nothing more than a misleading PR white-wash campaign led by Henry and fellow board lackeys), so I think that was within three years.
 
Chalkies evocation of David Parkers bi partisan stance on the percieved debt owed by Fonterra is illustrative and symptomatic with the tradegy that is the demise of the co-operative dairy industry (excluding Westland and Tatua) and the undermining of agricutural structures which fundamentally support the traditional family farm in general. The ultimate price of Fonterras debt seems to be foreign ownership, evidenced by allocation of share or units or securities or whatever you want to call them to foreign domiciled investment firms. Although Chalkie is jumping up and down about NZ INC not receiving a greater allocation, lets face it, the kiwi investors would have just clipped the ticket for a few peanuts, onselling the securities to investors with deeper pockets and greater domestic political clout, that being foreign domociled. But as the horse has bolted on the co-op industry, I'm sympathic with his point, why not let kiwis clip the ticket on the way through?
It is misleading and intellectually unsound to suggest we are better off since the formation of Fonterra, as David Parker and members of the opposition frequently do. Fonterras performance has been mediocre at best, little different to the nearest co-op competitors. Verticle integration has only allowed executive pay packets and governance renumeration to skyrocket, lapping up any streamlind saving. We sell commodity products, reacting nimbly to market requirements is dramatic exageration. The NZ consumer is not better off, the only real benefactors being a few politicians who formed investor owned competitor companies on the back of DIRA subsidised milk, and priviledged Fonterra shareholders who have had 100+ years of cooperative development capital, earnt on the back of previous generations efforts, transfered to their balance sheets, via the cooperatively undermining Fair Value Share. The investor owned competitor companies have hardly driven innovation through genuine competition as argued DIRA will insure.
 
 
 

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So would I be right in thinking this
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crony_capitalism
 
ending in this
 
 

By Don Kirk in Crony Capitalism Insidious SocialismEthicsSocialism's "intellectual suicide"

Yesterday’s New York Times has an article on the 70 year old Wen Jiabao, prime minister of the People’s Republic of China and leader of the Communist Party, retiring with a personal fortune estimated at 2.7 billion dollars. His mother was a school teacher her entire life, his father tended pigs during the Cultural Revolution, and Mr. Wen has been a government functionary his entire life, growing up as a boy “in extreme poverty.”
Clearly Mr. Wen never accumulated his family fortune as a risk-taking capitalist. Just as clearly, the morality of communism is government-sanctioned theft. Whether capitalist or communist, as Acton noted long ago, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
 
I don't know why when lord Acton gets quoted they never  finish the quote? I will
 
Great men are almost always bad men."

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One could be forgiven for thinking so. Deregulation, DIRA and FVS was going to foster a dynamic innovative progressive dairy industry that will deliver worthwhile progress to farmers and NZ. Still waiting.
I don't know, but gut feeling I would agree with Colin Ridens comments above about the imbalances inherent in neo classical economic dogma, in the sense the percieved wealth creation from leveraging historic cooperative capital hasn't enhanced farmers self determination and actualisation, but ironically increased our debt burden and subservience to others.

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Agreed Omnologo.
 
But a few did, and for the most part still are doing, very well out of the changes.
 
That was probably no accident, but it appears we now need to extend the earlier changes to keep the wealth trickling up.

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Great men are almost always bad men."
 
Hah - you don't even have to be great in New Zealand  - just plain old self serving greed suffices as justification.

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we could make 'great' relative i suppose.