What a difference a year can make

By David Carter

Last year looks set to go down in the record books as one of the best, with sheep farmers enjoying record meat prices, wool nearly doubling in value, log prices improving and dairy continuing a dream run.

Compare this to 2010, with crippling drought conditions at one end of the country giving way to storms at the other and the push for increased profitability being battered by the growing global economic crisis.

The devastation of the Canterbury earthquakes still has the country reeling, worrying conditions in Southland and Otago have farmers stepping up dry-weather action plans and the battle continues for our kiwifruit industry.

But New Zealanders have shown they're made of strong stuff. Our farmers are used to tackling the tough times head on, so when the gods are smiling, we should celebrate.

It is not often that we have a near- perfect farming year. As we head into 2012, I look forward to the challenge of my role as Minister for Primary Industries.

When I became Minister of Agriculture, Biosecurity and Forestry in 2008, I began a programme of work focused on lifting the profitability of New Zealand farmers and growers. This is happening across many sectors, but there is more work to do and I am delighted to have the opportunity to continue with the job.

Expanding the portfolio to incorporate fisheries is a logical move. MAF is now effectively a 'super Ministry', covering agriculture, biosecurity, forestry, fisheries and food safety and it makes sense to have a Minister responsible for all our primary industries.

To assist with the workload, I am fortunate to have Nathan Guy as Associate Minister. Nathan, the MP for Otaki, has a strong farming and local government background and he will be working closely with me across all areas of the portfolio.

As I head into my second term as Minister, it's a good time to take stock, and to look to the future. There are areas where we've made good progress and others where there's more work to do. My number one priority is water. National came into government in 2008 promising to accelerate economic growth through better water management and we are delivering.

The provision of $400 million from the Future Investment Fund to support the construction of well-designed irrigation schemes, along with the $35 million Irrigation Acceleration Fund, have huge potential to unlock pros- perity for our primary sectors.

I want to see more areas of New Zealand reliably irrigated and I'm pleased that discussions are already taking place with promoters of schemes in Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa, Marlborough, Canterbury and Otago.

Put simply, I want to see runs on the board.

My second priority is biosecurity. The Government is making good progress with its work on Government Industry Agreements.

I believe there is now a better understanding of the collaboration needed between government and industry to minimise the risk of pests and diseases causing harm to our primary industries.

MAF does a good job managing our biosecurity system, but it can't do it alone. Everyone must play their part. As Minister, I want to continue the work we are doing to improve the focus of our biosecurity system and better protect our borders.

David CarterThe National-led Government knows that agriculture is the key driver of our economy and our goal is to deliver an innovative, competitive and sustainable rural sector.

This year is going to be another busy one. I look forward to working with you all to help build a great future for New Zealand's primary industries.

David Carter is the Minister for Primary Industries

- Hamilton News

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