Farmers are asking industry good bodies to solve problems they should be addressing themselves, a young industry leader says.
Jenna Smith, the chief executive of an iwi-owned dairy operation, Pouarua Farms on the Hauraki Plains, said the industry is divided, with that division fuelled by fear of the unknown.
She said farmers expect their levy groups to do too much on their behalf, and in doing so have broadened these groups’ mandates beyond what they were designed to be.
When farmers do not get the answer or validation they want, they turn on them.
“We want them to be perfect,” she said of sector leaders.
“I am concerned we put a lot of responsibility on industry good organisations and if they don’t perform or give us the message we want, we crucify them.”
Smith gave the examples of Beef + Lamb NZ, DairyNZ and Federated Farmers commissioning a study on the relevance of pricing methane, which she believes exceeded their remit.
Farmers have a responsibility to read international signals and position their businesses, but as a sector agriculture needs cohesion and ought to be headed in the same direction.
“We need to find out the direction of travel and be given tips and tools,” she said.
Cheyenne Wilson, the former chair of the Food and Fibre Youth Network and an adviser with Kaiwhakahaere Matua at Te Kaharangi Hono Ltd, questioned the calibre of sector leaders, especially senior management.
Wilson, a former contract milker, said leadership is being willing to risk your name and reputation in pursuit of something you believe in, but never at the expense of values.
“I don’t know how many leaders I would follow,” she said.
Wilson said she is optimistic at the calibre of emerging young leaders.
“A lot of youth are standing up for what they believe in and they are willing to take risks. They are willing to listen and understand other people’s perspective.
“Leaders are not always the loudest people but are those that understand.”
One issue for young leaders is balancing the commitment of leadership with the need to earn income and pay a mortgage.
She understands farmers’ reservations about He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN) but said they ignored an even worse alternative: becoming part of the Emissions Trading Scheme.
HWEN also failed because, she said, leaders did not take risks for the betterment of the sector.
“They had their own agendas and would not take a step back and ask why are they making these decisions and who are they making these decisions for?”