Water has been the major issue of the year, writes Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills.
It is nearly Christmas again and I cannot believe I am almost 18 months into my term as president of Federated Farmers. It is a bigger job than I envisaged, but I know we are making good progress. Federated Farmers has achieved strong membership growth this year and the job of supporting farmers to achieve sustainable and profitable farming is more important than ever.
I am continually humbled by the enormous effort so many farmers commit to our organisation, in many cases at considerable cost. Your efforts are noted and very appreciated.
This year's number one issue was water, particularly our efforts on the Land and Water Forum (LaWF). LaWF is about compromise and the collaborative process has been long and arduous, but my hope is the outcome will be more enduring for it all.
Decisions about how we farm with water are better made by affected communities than distant judges. Yes, we have given some ground, but so have those who have rallied against us. Our over-riding focus has been that farming must remain profitable and must be allowed to grow.
Yes, we must do better at excluding stock from water, put more effort into ensuring our soils stay where they are supposed to and yes, we need to better manage animal effluent.
None of this is new and many farmers already meet these obligations, but we will need to collectively 'up' our efforts. Sustainable farming is in all our interests.
As we head toward the summer holiday season there are a few clouds on our horizon. Our determinedly high currency and the economic weakness in our major trade partners is having a negative effect on farm-gate returns. There is little the Federation can do to alleviate this, but we are fighting for farmers in areas where we can make a difference.
The Federation remains committed to reducing the regulation and unreasonable restrictions to the way we farm, such as the Manawatu-Wanganui regional council's One Plan.
Hopefully, with the end-of-year holidays coming up, there will be enough sunshine to be able to make the most of the summer, with just enough rain to keep those pastures growing - the ideal Christmas present for all! I wish you all the very best for a happy and prosperous New Year.