Sunday, March 3, 2024

OFF THE CUFF: Embrace rather than persecute farmers

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Never, ever in our wildest nightmares could anyone have imagined what a whirlwind this covid-19 outbreak means for our world.  Borders closing, self-isolation, panic buying and business uncertainty are all now our reality even before we head into the unknown territory that is a total lock-down. It is still difficult to comprehend all that is happening during these testing times. 
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The past week has been a rollercoaster of emotions in my farming year. 

Firstly, there was a wave of relief as I was finally able to send some older ewes off the farm for the first time this year. Next came the calamity that is covid-19, spreading fear and uncertainty among us all as quickly as the actual virus itself. 

Happiness came in the past couple of days when some gentle rain finally fell on our drought-stricken pastures. And lastly came a sense of pride, albeit a little hollow, that our farming industry has finally been recognised by our Government as being an essential service.

The last feeling has outstripped all the other emotions put together. 

As a farmer I know we produce healthy and sustainable food, fibre and produce more efficiently than anyone else on the planet. That is a fact. We, as farmers, have been desperate to tell that story to the masses for decades. 

We might not have been the best storytellers at times and, sure, there are those among us who let the rest of the team down on occasion but we have all been working hard to improve our practices so we continue to achieve at the highest level.

But it has taken a global pandemic for the Government to seemingly realise just how important our primary industries are to not only our economy but the nation’s survival. 

Last year the same Government was happy to bombard us with proposed legislations or taxes in drag to placate themselves from unrealistic environmental goals. 

They polluted us with carbon chaos, drowned us with fresh water excrement and buried us with biodiversity bullshit with little consultation and no consideration for the damage they might do. 

In short, they lined up their own golden goose and unloaded three solid shells at spitting distance. These hideous changes to our farming lives are still simmering away behind the chaos of covid-19. 

I know managing this crisis is the toughest challenge this country has ever faced and I must give Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and company credit for acting quickly and decisively thus far. But one thing it has proved without any doubt is that our path to prosperity when we come out the other side will be on the backs of our primary industries.

Now is the time for the Government to publicly acknowledge it needs to hold fire on all proposed legislation until the dust settles. Much of the country is still in a drought on top of coping with covid-19 and we need the Government to urgently put moratoriums on all proposed legislation till this crisis is behind us. 

That needs to happen now so farmers can focus on what we do best, farming.

I have heard words like war,battle and unprecedented being bandied about by many politicians. These truly are extraordinary times we live in. 

But these times are when true leaders recognise their strengths and weaknesses, their mistakes and how to learn from them and ultimately how to be remembered for their legacy. 

Our little island nation at the bottom of the world will get through this if we all work together and co-operate. Healthy and nutritious food will be at the top of the planet’s priority list for the foreseeable future so let’s put our differences aside for the moment, acknowledge the vital importance our farming industry has and protect and enhance it at all costs. 

History is littered with leaders who have recognised the true importance of agriculture. I can only hope our country’s leaders have somewhat of an epiphany and resolve to embrace their farmers rather than persecute them. United State president Thomas Jefferson said “Agriculture is our wisest pursuit because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness.” 

Surely such wisdom from 200 years ago is as relevant today as it was then.

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