Sunday, April 23, 2023

Bryce McKenzie: Why fighting the cost of living crisis needs to start on the farm

None of what I am about to write will be news to rural New Zealanders, but I’ll say it in the hopes that our message is heard a little farther afield.

When farmers and food producers suffer under an endless deluge of government regulations and policies, all Kiwis suffer.

When we struggle to keep our farms and businesses going under a Government that has slapped more costs on us than ever before, it costs more to produce the food for all of our families.

Grocery bills aren’t going up because farmers are making a huge margin and going on tropical holidays. In fact, food producers are receiving considerably less for their produce now than they were 12 months ago.

Aside from inflationary factors, higher wages, and transport costs, it’s not hard to figure out why food is getting more expensive. Not only are we facing more upfront costs, but we also have to spend more time battling through red tape and ticking boxes for bureaucrats.

All of this has led to almost a collective depression in many of our communities. Everyone is strained to their limits.

There are people whose families have farmed for generations selling up and leaving farming behind because it is just too hard.

They can flog themselves out on the farm all day, but it is just too hard dealing with unempathetic suits in Wellington who see making farming less profitable and more difficult as a “win”.

I worry for my community and I don’t say that lightly.

There are some who have bought into this idea that farmers are all evil, polluting, greedy people on tractors, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Our lives are much more connected to the land and New Zealand’s natural environment than most of those who live in the big smoke, for example.

Our livelihoods depend on us looking after the land we produce food on. We understand that if we don’t treat the environment with respect, it will not allow us to produce the necessary food for us to stay in business.

I can tell you now that you’ll struggle to find a Kiwi farmer who isn’t a passionate environmentalist who wants to be one with the land.

We aren’t calling for relief from environmental policies because we want a free-for-all where no one takes responsibility for their impact on the environment. We are speaking up and pushing back because the policies and regulations being imposed on us right now are ineffective on top of painfully unworkable.

You would not believe the number of environmental policy silos the Government has on the go. Just when we think we are on top of what one department has demanded, another pops up with a whole new set of rules and costs for us. They don’t seem to talk to each other. There is certainly no cohesion between their (often competing) regulations and policies.

It is a nightmare for those of us just trying to earn a living on our farms.

This chaotic approach to environmental protection is no good for anyone. Not food producers, not Kiwis trying to stock their fridges, and not our environment.

We’ve said it until we are blue in the face, but I will say it again: Hipkins has to throw the farming tax (agricultural emissions tax proposal and He Waka Eke Noa) on his so-called “policy bonfire”.

We need one piece of environmental legislation that is holistic, has an integrated framework, avoids perverse outcomes, and has a focus on empowering people and communities to achieve positive environmental outcomes.

Halt all the expensive and ill-thought-out nonsense, and let’s get together to come up with something comprehensive and workable.

Our new Prime Minister has made a real point of telling us all that he is focused on the “bread and butter issues”, but he seems to have forgotten about the people who make his bread and butter.

If he really wants to bring relief to Kiwis’ grocery bills, he needs to deal with the issue at source by making it a little less difficult for us to produce the food that goes in the trolley.

Easing the regulatory and cost burden on food producers is just a matter of this Government getting out of our way so we can do our jobs.

Farmers, food producers, and rural New Zealanders are calling on Chris Hipkins to remember what side his bread is buttered on.

A lot of Kiwis are going to head to the ballot box later this year with the cost of living and eating top of their mind.......The full article is published HERE

Bryce McKenzie is the co-founder of the farmer-rights lobby group Groundswell NZ. He is an Otago farmer.


Anonymous said...

Hi Bryce - I'm a townie and with you all the way. I suggest you do a max effort on informing the urban voters about the financial and environmental background importance of farmers and farming. Use social media (I don't, but) and make a few well-chosen points to highlight the effects of what really is going on.
Farmers deserve a lot more support than they are getting. The media bashing is scandalous, uncalled-for and needs to be turned around.

CXH said...

'I can tell you now that you’ll struggle to find a Kiwi farmer who isn’t a passionate environmentalist who wants to be one with the land.'

But I can show you a lot of corporations that are passionate profit seekers who want to maximize returns.

Anonymous said...

Regrettably there is no matauranga relating to your farming except perhaps for kumera. So don’t hold your breath for something to happen. Oh… and whose land was stolen from you to give you colonial based wealth and power?