Friday, July 1, 2022

Milne elected VP of world body

West Coast dairy farmer Katie Milne has been elected vice president of the World Farmers Organisation at its general assembly in Budapest.

The former national president of Federated Farmers, Dairy Woman of the Year and Oceania representative on the WFO’s board for the past four years says she had been thinking about succession for a while.

It was when she was shoulder-tapped by other farmers in the organisation to stand for the role that she thought – why not.

Still on her way home from Hungary, Milne is eager to make a difference.

She says the WFO is growing in strength as bodies such as the Food Security Council and the UN are calling on it more and more with many global issues affecting farmers and as a consequence affecting food security.

“We’ve got a good vibrant organisation with farmers and farm organisations putting their hand up and being the voice for farmers all around the world.

“I’ve felt very humbled at the notice that’s been taken.

“I guess when you’re in the throngs of doing the business, you sometimes forget how important it is.”

It is important that grassroots farmers, such as small family farms, are at the table being heard when agriculture is the topic of discussion,” Milne says.

The WFO has just wrapped up the general assembly where farmers from many countries gathered and had two days of rigorous debate and conversation listening to and understanding each other’s problems. 

“Many are facing the same issues that we face in New Zealand, it’s just within different contexts. 

“We’re all worried about food scarcity because of some of the policies that have been driven down the pipeline in our own countries and many are stifling production where they don’t really need to.

“Often, we have a better way forward or another solution that could help with the issues that almost every government is trying to fix.

“Farmers of the world have launched an urgent appeal to governments to take food production seriously.”

Katie Milne
World Farmers Organisation

“We’re trying to make sure that the right science and evidence has been put forward to help push back on some of those policies.”

Food scarcity will be a reality for more nations in the future and it is important that strong and diverse farm systems are in place, Milne says.

“Democracy is the big thing we want to be leaders for farmers of the world, we have a good vibrant (WFO) organisation with good farmer representation around the world.

“We can be a good voice with a lot of common ground with farmers right around the world.

“There are some big issues on the table from a world farming point of view, food security is the huge one and this is from conventional fully developed nations right through.

“Some of our farmers are facing food shortage and hunger, people are saying they have got farmers at home going hungry – they have no bread.

Milne says it is a raw place to be and the WFO is reinforcing a call to action.

“Farmers of the world have launched an urgent appeal to governments and other decision makers to take food production seriously and avoid measures that will damage food security.

Animal protein and whether livestock production still has a role to play in food production, versus plant-based food versus land banks, all culminate in one big global issue, and as a consequence, affect food security.

“We had innovative sessions around this and how can we go forward and convince people to find solutions.

“We get what the problems are and we (as farmers) want to make sure we can solve them to be better for markets, the consumers and for a better result financially.

“We are just trying to grow the food and we are doing the best we can of our ability with the limited resources and knowledge and tools that we have at the moment.”

Milne urges policymakers to include farmers in discussion.

“When there are discussions about whether the world should grow plant-based proteins or what the world can do about climate change, farmers need to be included as they can talk about the practicalities of the ideas.

“We try to avoid the pitfalls that might be detrimental for food security and farmer livelihoods.”

Diversity of food systems will be key to getting through the less stable times around global food security than has been seen for a number of years, Milne says.

More articles on this topic