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Angus Kebbell sets out the case for why farmers must support their industry bodies - a seat at the table, and a willingness to engage and influence the inevitable compromises will always beat partisan disengagement

Rural News / opinion
Angus Kebbell sets out the case for why farmers must support their industry bodies - a seat at the table, and a willingness to engage and influence the inevitable compromises will always beat partisan disengagement
negotiating farm policies around the table
Image sourced from

If you are a farmer you might often wonder what good your industry body representatives do, whether it’s Beef+Lamb or Dairy NZ. You can’t please everyone but what I will say is these groups work tirelessly for better outcomes for farmers.

When it comes to working with government, it’s not a straightforward process. If you take He Waka Eke Noa as an example it is a collaboration between industry, Government, the science community and iwi. The science can provide sound information based on evidence which is hard to dispute.


Farmer groups fight for the best outcome for farmers, and the Government of the day have their agenda and the current one seems hell bent on increasing taxes on farmers and continuously putting up road blocks which negatively impact farmers ability to operate and increases farm input costs. With that being said there must be compromise around the table to get anywhere. But for a country that relies on export revenue from the primary industry you would think the government of the day would be doing everything in it’s power to protect this valuable asset and put it’s best foot forward.

It was no easy feat getting collaboration between so many organisations, and if you do not have a seat at the table you can quite quickly become the meal.

So what are industry bodies doing for farmers? An example of what Dairy NZ is doing to improve water quality is a Sustainable Catchments programme. This initiative, part of a three-year Sustainable Catchments programme, will deliver work in the Waikato and Southland catchments, and across South Canterbury. It is the first project of its kind that has seen DairyNZ work closely with iwi, bringing western science and Māori together to better understand catchment ecological health and how to improve it.

DairyNZ general manager for sustainable dairy Dr David Burger says it’s exciting to get the project underway. “It means a lot for DairyNZ to be partnering with organisations that have similar goals and aspirations. We look forward to moving forward with iwi and farmers to make a difference to the environment, and we hope to identify further partnership opportunities as we continue to focus on environmental improvements at a catchment level.”

The Sustainable Catchments project will include trialling practical tools and interventions on-farm, such as constructed wetlands, to increase awareness and understanding of ways to improve water quality. The three catchments are identified as priority areas for restoration because monitoring shows they have higher nitrogen concentrations and lower ecosystem health scores than other catchment areas.

“There are opportunities for improvement in each catchment,” Dr Burger says. “Each catchment has committed landowners who are passionate about improving water quality, and this work will help accelerate the momentum of current restoration activities,” Dr Burger says. “We will work closely to support local landowners and catchment groups, which already have water quality improvement initiatives underway.

The first year of work will see catchment assessments completed, including designing monitoring programmes to track water quality and hauora (health) change over time. In the second year, on-farm and catchment activity will demonstrate mitigations with proven science to improve the health of catchment waterways.

When it comes to Beef+Lamb their efforts on behalf of farmers is significant across all areas of the industry, their sustainability and environmental progression is forward thinking and they are also working hard in our international markets to distinguish New Zealand’s red meat sector from the rest of the world which is encouraging.

The aim is to use the Taste Pure Nature brand as a global platform to enhance the positioning of New Zealand beef and lamb. Taste Pure Nature is providing a marketing umbrella to support New Zealand exporter brand building activities.

There is a growing level of anxiety among consumers globally about meat driven from food scares, hormones and antibiotics, impacts on the environment, horse meat substitution, lack of transparency, and animal welfare concerns.

A lot of these concerns stem from more industrialised production methods. That’s not the way we farm here in New Zealand. If we don’t want to be affected by these trends, then we need to tell our story to consumers better.

Beef+Lamb’s research has found that New Zealand’s image as a country in our overseas markets is positive but weak in relation to red meat. There is very little knowledge about our natural grass fed, hormone free, antibiotic free farming methods and Taste Pure Nature intends to change that.

Taste Pure Nature says that as a sector, our future also lies in driving a higher premium for our products. We can’t and don’t want to feed the world. Their research shows that country/place of origin is a primary tool consumers, retailers and foodservice use to decide where to buy their products from, and is a shortcut to understanding and trust. Origin branding is also a platform off which greater value can be driven.

With our natural assets and farming systems, New Zealand is strongly positioned at an origin level, to establish a level of trust and loyalty with consumers that can’t be replicated by other countries.

I think at a policy level we can do more to support the engine room of New Zealand by removing many of the barriers currently in place, industry will keep fighting on behalf of farmers but as we move closer to election day – will we see change from current policy makers or will they maintain their current course? Time will tell.

Listen to the podcast to hear the full story

Angus Kebbell is the Producer at Tailwind Media. You can contact him here.

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Yawn !


I guess if you're yawning you didn't read the article. Do Wokies realise it's farmers who earn over 70% of our income? The greenies want us to think that farmers are ruining the planet. Yes, our rivers need cleaning up and that is happening. When you drive around rural areas take notice of all the on-farm trees, fenced waterways and riparian strips that are looking well established after 30 years of mitigation efforts. The greenies knock farmers to support their climate change agenda. In reality farmers are bending over and taking one for the team but they don't want to be actually shafted either. The political agenda rules the propaganda media which says we must bully the farmers. Thanks for an informative article that will reach urban readers as much as rural ones. City folk need to stand shoulder to shoulder with our farmers in solidarity. Don't let the politicians come between us.


The greens aren't out to ruin farmers. In fact, they have been pushing what taste nature is saying for years.

What they are also saying is that we must live up to what we are advertising.


 "In reality farmers are bending over and taking one for the team"

In respect of the positive achievements I'd suggest they are simply doing what can rightfully be expected to produce something reassembling a realitively sustainable system.

And of course those that aren't deserve a good kicking, along with the plastic greenies who simply have no idea of their impact living in suburbia.


I recall this as being a major additional bit of bureaucracy for farmers - and then it failed at the first 'test';

The most recent M. Bovis update report I could find, records;

Including 2017-18 spend and allocations the total 11-year estimate as at 11 June 2018 was $992 million. 

So, nearly a billion spent by taxpayers - and that doesn't include taxpayers costs associated with NAIT development and administration..

The question I have is - do farmers think the government expenditure (firstly) on NAIT and (then) on M. Bovis eradication was good value-for-money?  

Seems to me, that so often what government does for the industry gets drowned out in the call to reduce bureaucracy, and hence lower input costs. 

But then, maybe the additional bureaucracy in this case (i.e., disease tracking and eradication) - wasn't what farmers wanted in the first place?