Despite rising prices, farmers are feeling oppressed from all sides and confidence is low. Fickle urban voters are driving a flood of rules and imposing costs that make little sense to the business of farming

Despite rising prices, farmers are feeling oppressed from all sides and confidence is low. Fickle urban voters are driving a flood of rules and imposing costs that make little sense to the business of farming
Now sensitive urban types want sensitive protections for destructive pests

The results of the January Federated Farmers farmer survey have recently been published and makes fairly sober reading - especially in the context that prices for most commodities are reasonably sound.

Only 5.1% of respondents expected economic conditions to improve and but nearly 46% expect economic conditions to worsen, this is the worse result since July 2009.

Given the recent rises in milk prices and solid returns coming for sheep and beef farmers this level of pessimism is somewhat surprising and perhaps is a reflection of where farmers heads are at rather than a measure of what the ‘true’ economic conditions are. Apart from taxes, one thing nobody like especially in business, is uncertainty and it is coming by the bucket full in the last few months.

For dairy farmers, the still unresolved issues around the Fonterra balance sheet was probably the start and coincided with the M.Bovis outbreak. The Trump-versus-China impasse and the ongoing saga with Brexit are also contributing and then we get to the domestic situation.

Farming, and in particular dairying have been under continual pressure from what most feel is the general public, although I suspect it is more of a very vocal minority and increasingly the government is ratcheting up the rhetoric regarding the environment footprint of farming. The latest impact is the threaten introduction of a Capital Gains Tax, among others.

In the mean time the usual uncertainties that any business has to contend with are still there and these range from staffing issues to the increasing compliance costs and requirements etc etc, and then we have the spectre of climate change. The survey was done in January and while the GDT auction prices had been on their upward trend, Fonterra hadn’t updated their farmgate forecasts and so dairy farmers, which provided the gloomiest outlook, if they were surveyed again today would probably provide a (slightly) more up-beat response however the underlying mood of farming does have a lot to be concerned about.

The key messages coming out of the survey were; Global uncertainty; A drop in profitability especially in dairy and arable farms; An increase in farm expenses (this came especially from the sheep and beef sector who incidentally were the most positive of the sectors surveyed).

Almost 90% of all farms have debt and most predict it to increase particularly the ‘dairy and other sector’.

Farmers said the highest government priority should be on the economy and business and consistent with all surveys since July 2017 the biggest concern is on compliance and regulation costs. Concerns over the ETS and climate change have levelled out and one area that has decreased is concern over the political situation.

The attitudes of the public psyche is constantly-shifting territory and this was brought home to me in a report out of Gisborne regarding the discovery of 14 leg traps, not the long spring gin traps, on Kaiti hill. There is no confusion that the setting of traps in this area is inappropriate.  Above the old Kaiti freezing works, which is an area now with bars and cafes it is a bush covered hill but very close to residential areas and pets and public alike. The ‘bit’ I found of interest was the terminology used around a possum that was caught in one of the traps, “Biosecurity officers were called to euthanise the injured and distressed animal”. It would have not been long ago that the possum would have been dispatched and barely a mention made of it.

The trend now to apply  somewhat emotive terms to what would have to be one of if not the major introduced pest in New Zealand is interesting and an attitude livestock farmers need to be well aware of with their farming practices.

When ‘sympathetic’ language is being applied to possums then practices like tailing and dehorning cannot be far away from coming under increased public scrutiny. Urban attitudes are fickle and constantly moving ground, but in recent years the speed of change, especially as applied to livestock and agricultural systems is taking some keeping up with.

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How much will their interest rate bills go up after the reserve capital increase that RBNZ propose goes through?

The sad fact is that there are more Urbanites than Farmers, and the former Know Best about most Everything. Except, of course, where their food actually comes from, and by what processes.

Sad it certainly is. Identities with all authority but free of any responsibility. Pontificating and decisions made from rooms without windows. The dead hand of bureaucracy, or as a Southland farmer once described, but more colourfully, “those with the shiny pants seats.” Not just the rural sector though, bad as it is. Urbanites have the same problems with ludicrous and/or spendthrift management and projects from their councils, far too often. Viva, the Brown Cardigan Brigade!

A group of <40yr old farmers and horticulturists were out on a boys night out in our biggest city. They get in to a conversation with some women who during the course of said conversation, said they were vegetarians. Accused the livestock farmers of being murderers but were ok with the horticulturists - enthused over the fruit varieties they grew. One horticulturist said that they use chicken litter (Manure) on their orchard. Young women said they have no problem with that and that it was a good choice - better than solid fertiliser. Said the young horticulturist, but do you know that it doesn't just contain the manure from chickens? He then proceeded to tell them what else it contains. Consequently the young women were so shocked, they got up and left.
The vegetarians clearly didn't know the processes/products by which their fruit was grown.

You might find that fact sad. But sad or not, these urbanites are your customers and the customer is always right.

I lost a pet cat to one of those leg hold traps (left behind by Regional Council possum controllers). She managed to get it free and drag it home after being missing for over a week, in spite of being nearly dead from dehydration and septicaemia. It was absolutely horrendous.

I'm no bleeding heart townie, but don't kid yourself that those traps don't cause immense suffering - I think they should be banned. There's plenty of more humane options - kill traps, shooting or Feratox.

Cheese.....poor Farmers.....

Did anyone else notice that Countdown raised its "Bargain Cheeses" by 50% this week...

Maybe they will pass it on to Farmers...via the gravy train....milk supply....paid for by their over milked Customer Services NZ Branches.......Monopoly munny supply....Quangos.

Not just playing Possum...our dear!

Back in the 70's and 80's my parents 150 cow dairy farm had trees for the animals to shelter from the sun and wind and they would never tail their cows as they deemed it not only painful for the animal but could see how distressed the cows were in the paddock unable to swat flies.

They also used neck break traps and a 22 rifle for possums as gin traps were simply cruel.

Of course back then effluent went straight into the creek and 245T was used extensively as nobody knew the consequences. My own perception, rightly or wrongly, these days is large corporate farms still polluting the waterways with effluent, nitrogen and sprays and treating the animals more like battery hens. Seems production is everything at the expense of the environment and animal husbandry.

Tail docking of cattle and dogs has been banned since October 2018. Animal welfare guide has been updated and affects not only commercial animals but also domestic/lifestyle block animals

What with carbon footprints , methane from cows farting , Capital Gains Tax , water tax , low milk prices , high input costs , the weather , shortages of staff, and badgering from the Greens ................ the last thing farmers need is an openly hostile and belligerent Government .

Aye Mr Boatman, but as you know, from the school of hard knocks, the last thing you need is often the first thing you get. Going back a bit, Muldoon and his SMP’s were chronically counterproductive to both farmers and the processors. The good old pendulum never rests in the middle.

Farming's biggest problem - by far - is long-term maintainability.

Guy - is anyone addressing that? Not the usual sustainability-lite, I'm talking about real long-term stuff. Seems to me nobody is looking past fossil fuels, past global financial collapse, past resource draw-down. Is it just in the too-hard basket?

As the commentators repeatedly state how stupid urbanites are, just remember the link between town and country is very close. In my own family many are off farms and have chosen a profession. My mother was raised on a farm , Ive had several uncles with farms and spent a lot of time there as a kid.