Federated Farmers congratulated outgoing Prime Minister John Key on Monday after eight years leading the country, and was looking forward to working with his successor Bill English.

"John Key has been an outstanding Prime Minister and ambassador for our country. During his time in office he has overseen some profound challenges and changes," Federation president Dr William Rolleston said.

"These are tough shoes to fill, but we are certainly happy to back Bill English, and expect he will continue to lead the government in the positive way John Key has always done."

The Federation was pleased to see a farmer back in charge of the country after 20 years, and hoped that he would lead with the pragmatism for which farmers were known.

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The challenge for Mr English and his new team would be to live up to the nation's expectations, particularly in sound financial and economic management.

"This has been the cornerstone of the Key administration, and while New Zealand's primary sector needs this to remain the government's priority, we also need the government to stick to evidence-based policy," said.

"It needs to avoid popularism if it is to tackle contentious but important issues such as superannuation and the environment. Only then will it be able to say it has truly benefited the country.

"The government must stay focused on the importance of the primary sector to New Zealand. It's the engine room of our economy, and supports our nation's high standard of living."