Farming practices will come under increasing scrutiny, says agriculture minister

Demanding international markets are scrutinizing farming practices in New Zealand, Labor politicians say.

CHRIS SKELTON / Stuff

Demanding international markets are scrutinizing farming practices in New Zealand, Labor politicians say.

Signals from international markets indicate that New Zealand farming practices will come under increasing scrutiny, “we all need to up our game”, says Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

“We live in a fishbowl whether we like it or not,” said O’Connor, who is also Minister for Trade and Export Growth.

O’Connor’s comments on Thursday come after concerns were raised about the extent of government reform affecting the rural sector.

Tasman Deputy Mayor and sole councilor for the Lakes-Murchison ward, Stuart Bryant, raised the concerns during a visit last week from Associate Local Government Minister Kieran McAnulty.

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Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said

Warwick Smith / Stuff

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said “we all need to up our game”.

Bryant told McAnulty that Lakes-Murchison was a large, rural neighborhood.

In recent years, many laws have been ‘directed at farmers’, such as winter grazing rules, farm plans, significant natural areas and identification of wetlands.

“There’s a lot of dissatisfaction, especially from young farmers, around all of these rules,” Bryant said. “Is there a plan to fix this rather than leaving it to the councils?”

McAnulty said he came from a farming family and understood the concerns expressed by some members of the rural community.

“But I also understand the need for these changes,” he said.

“We cannot ignore it. Whether we sell our products overseas and how much people are willing to pay for our products depends on how we produce them and how we present ourselves.

Tasman District deputy mayor and sole councilor for the Lakes-Murchison ward, Stuart Bryant, said there was a lot of discontent, particularly from young farmers, about government rules affecting the rural sector.

Braden Fastier / Stuff

Tasman District deputy mayor and sole councilor for the Lakes-Murchison ward, Stuart Bryant, said there was a lot of discontent, particularly from young farmers, about government rules affecting the rural sector.

Two free trade agreements had been signed this year, one with the European Union and the other with the United Kingdom “which are significantly beneficial for our primary sector”.

“Both of these markets are incredibly demanding,” McAnulty said.

These markets would only pay “top dollar” if it could be shown that these products were “produced in a way that does not impact the environment” and that producers were doing their “part for change”. climate”.

O’Connor made similar statements in October 2017, shortly after being named agriculture minister. He warned of the “disruptions” to come for the rural sector.

“If we don’t have better environmental management, if we don’t have more sustainable land use and if we don’t meet the highest standards of animal welfare, we won’t be able to sell our products in high-value markets,” he added. O’Connor said at the time.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor, right, visits Golden Bay farmers Deborah and Tim Rhodes after a storm in August.

Deborah Rhodes/Supplied

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, right, visits Golden Bay farmers Deborah and Tim Rhodes after a storm in August.

New Zealand had to target these big spenders because the country was “far from markets and our production costs are not low”.

O’Connor said on Thursday that signals from international markets were stronger now than in 2017.

He pointed out that the food giant Nestlé Global aims to source 50% ingredients from regenerative agriculture by 2030 while McDonald’s has set a global goal to decarbonize its operations, including its supply chain, with a goal of net zero by 2050.

O’Connor said these companies are on the “cutting edge” of consumer trends.

“The challenge for us is to stay ahead of this wave,” he said.

Federated Farmers vice president and Golden Bay dairy farmer Wayne Langford says many farmers are concerned about the “large scale” approach being taken to a set of rules for the primary sector.

Katherine Edmond/Supplied

Federated Farmers vice president and Golden Bay dairy farmer Wayne Langford says many farmers are concerned about the “large scale” approach being taken to a set of rules for the primary sector.

Besides market consideration, better environmental stewardship was “the right thing to do – to reduce emissions from everything we do”.

Federated Farmers vice president, Golden Bay dairy farmer Wayne Langford said he believes most in the industry understand that the primary sector produces some of the highest quality products in the world.

“To keep ourselves at this level, we’re going to have to keep improving what we’re doing,” Langford said.

The problem that many farmers had with the set of rules was the “broad” approach taken.

“They need to be broken down and be more regionally focused,” Langford said. “There is a problem with this centralized nationalist legislation.”

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Trade Minister Damien O’Connor announce a trade deal with the UK. (Video first published on October 21, 2021)

For example, the Tasman district had “exceptional water quality” compared to some other areas. Therefore, some of the “millions of dollars” for freshwater improvements could be better spent on another issue in the district, such as climate change mitigation.

O’Connor had done a lot of work to put in place a “vision for New Zealand agriculture”, but how it was being achieved was concerning, Langford said.

“They [the Government] could work on their communication a bit – why and how they are going to get there.

About Keneth T. Graves

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