Bruce Wills: We're lifting our game

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A reporter recently asked me, "Why is it that every couple of years a rural community somewhere in New Zealand is in drought and often a few years later those same farmers are putting their hands up again?

"Are things being done so that we don't face this problem so often? Are farmers learning from these situations?"

These are perfectly reasonable questions and yes, there are things we farmers can do and are doing.

Nature will always have the final say, but we certainly can do things to mitigate weather events.

Things like more water storage, more feed supplements, more trees, a more flexible mix of stock and, importantly, how we manage our pastures. Farmers will continue to learn and adapt.

We know that resilient and sustainable farming is a must if we are to achieve long term profitability. Many farmers plan well for drought, but some get caught napping. Weather events will continue to test us, so we need to be prepared.

Biodiversity is another area where farmers need to lift our game.

Thirty years ago, government and society supported incentives to replace steep hill sides of bush with pasture and sheep. We cleared a lot of fragile land and, with the benefit of hindsight, now know that the pendulum swung too far.

Initially started by Federated Farmers, the QEII Trust is one organisation working to right that large-scale biodiversity loss.

Today some 120,000 hectares of private land has been covenanted in a voluntary win-win deal for landowners, councils and the QEII Trust.

Farmers are an adaptable bunch and will bounce back from this current drought with a few more worry lines and some dented balance sheets, but we will learn.

Our farming systems will continue to evolve and farming will remain New Zealand's largest export earner for a long time to come.

- Hamilton News

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