Tuesday, December 5, 2023

A view from the cowshed as voting kicks off

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Farmers have set out what they want political parties to think about leading up to the election.
It will take a rebound in dairy demand in China or New Zealand’s spring milk production to break the current lull in international dairy prices.
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By Jim van der Poel, DairyNZ chair

Like all Kiwis and small business owners, dairy farmers have been feeling the effects of rising costs. Coupled with the recent forecast cuts in milk price, many will now be thinking about their business viability.

With the general election around the corner, DairyNZ’s 2023 View from the Cowshed survey highlights what farmers want political parties to think about leading up to the election, to support them now and into the future.

The survey shows farmers being very concerned about the impact of inflation and regulations for some time now. The recent fall in the farmgate milk price will have only added to their concerns.

In the View from the Cowshed survey, almost 75% of dairy farmers report experiencing cost increases of over 20% in the past year alone.

Many farmers will be struggling to make ends meet and are focused on minimising losses this year. Therefore, it is important for the forthcoming government to keep tight control of its own spending and avoid contributing to inflationary pressures.

It’s vital we support farmers to succeed, given their significant contribution to local communities and economies, with dairy projected to generate over $25 billion in export revenue this year alone.

Sixty-five percent of dairy farmers say changing regulations are a key challenge. They’re concerned about impractical regulations (72%), too much change at once (69%) and the speed of change (64%).

Excessive and impracticable regulatory requirements are negatively impacting farmers wellbeing and their farming businesses. They are creating real frustrations.

DairyNZ is calling on all political parties to commit to an independent regulatory review panel, made up of experienced farmers from across the primary sector, to review proposed regulations that impact farmers and ensure they are necessary, practical and cost-effective, and will achieve desired outcomes.

The survey findings also emphasise the pressing need to resolve workforce challenges, including staff shortages and retention. A total of 26% of farmers say they don’t have enough staff to meet their needs, while 29% are never or rarely able to find staff with the skills and experience they need. 

DairyNZ wants policymakers to continue collaborating with sector organisations as we work to improve recruitment and retention of farm staff.  This includes supporting flexible immigration policies and our sector’s Great Futures in Dairying Plan(designed to build great workplaces and workforce).

In many ways, we want the same things as other Kiwis – a solution to the crippling rates of inflation and workers to fill vacancies. We want solutions that work for the people in our rural communities, so they can thrive and continue contributing to a positive future for New Zealand.

This article first appeared in the October edition of our sister publication, Dairy Farmer.

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