A number of issues were raised at the Federated Farmers Dairy Council meeting at Waitangi in February. Dairy policy advisor Ann Thompson noted the discussions.
Federated Farmers Dairy Council generally agreed that in order to attract good staff, houses and facilities must be in good condition. However, the Council also considered it was difficult for staff to turn down a house in poor condition when they really needed the job.
While the Federation cannot force a housing standard on farms, we include an accommodation checklist in our sharemilking agreements. The condition of the facilities can be discussed and any promises to remedy can be noted before sign-up. We ask that employers honour their promises.
For those with contracts which do not include this checklist, we ask that farmers ask themselves a basic question: could they live in this house during winter?
Take photos of facilities and provide copies to both parties to keep track of the condition from the start of the contract.
There was a long discussion, which included the Northland Rural Support Trust, with the Council sharing stories of work being done in their own regions.
Signs to look out for include stock in poor condition and changes in someone's physical appearance. Also, a sudden improvement in a person's outlook may be due to them having decided to take their own life. If anyone gets a call which does feel not quite right, get involved; there may not be a second chance.
Actions could be as simple as calling a service, such as depression.org.nz on 0800 111 757, Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or Healthline on 0800 611 116. All farmers should have their local Rural Support Trust number, which can be found online.
'Drought Shouts', Sunday night sharemilker barbecues and get-togethers can also make a huge difference.
Federated Farmers will review the Herd-owning sharemilking agreement this year and go to the Arbitrators and Mediators Institute of New Zealand for feedback. An experienced review team from both the Sharemilkers' Section and Sharemilker Employers' Section will carry it out. No changes are expected to be made before the 2013/14 season.
This banking tool was discussed as farmers throughout New Zealand have been persuaded this was the best tool for them, without full explanation of disadvantages. The Council considered few bankers and farmers really understood swaps' full implications.
This variation to Waikato Regional Council's regional plan deals with water allocation and farming in the affected area was discussed. The council has, with Federated Farmers' help, formed a group and is working with DairyNZ and dairy processors to encourage better on-farm management. Decreasing sediment and nutrients going into waterways and improving water efficiency is set within a reasonable three-year timeframe.
The Council discussed the need to encourage and foster newcomers to the farming industry and the support needed.
Trading Among Farmers (TAF)
Both Ian Brown, chairman of the Fonterra Shareholders' Council (FSHC), and Christine Burr, Fonterra's general manager shares and payments, spoke on this. The FSHC is confident TAF will achieve its purpose and should allow Fonterra to achieve its strategic directive. Communication between sharemilker employers and sharemilkers is even more vital now that TAF is in place.
Members were warned not to change details in employment documentation, including position descriptions or titles. The best thing farmers can do to assist immigrants is to help them to work towards Level 4 on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework, the equivalent of herd manager.
The next meeting is the AGM, which will be held in Ashburton on July 3 and 4.