Yes, these are tough times for dairy farmers but we should trust those with the industry's interests at heart.

My plea this morning is that we give our dairy farmers a break, that we cut them some slack and start to get on board with what they already know. Because, let's be frank, they know dairy a lot better than all the others who, from the comfort of their urban existence, are lining up to tell us the world is ending.

Just to be clear, this will be a tough season. The return of $3.85 is not flash and it's a mile away from $8.40.

Yes, most farmers won't make a profit. Yes, some farmers might not make it out the other side, especially those who have gone in late and borrowed big to do so. But what I admire so much about the farming community is they're realists.

I was reminded of this the other morning in talking to one of the Federated Farmers heads. I was asking why we weren't buying all the milk and clearing the shelves and tipping it down the drains like the Poms? Why weren't we blocking roads and throwing poo all over the place like the French?


He said because we've got better things to do and the farm still has to be run and we live in the real world and we know how these things work.

Bravo. In that is the simple truth that we have been here before and we will be here again. That's commodities for you, good days and not-so-good days. Prices driven, not by fault, but by things beyond your control.

Russian sanctions are not the fault of the cow owner in Southland but they hit the wallet nevertheless. So, if the farmers get it, if the farm leaders tell us that's life and the world isn't ending and dairy will be okay, why are so many lining up to tell us different? Because for some it's about agendas and cheap points.

Andrew Little and Winston Peters both tell us it's a crisis. How come they can see something farmers can't? What rural dairy magic do they have that the head of Fonterra doesn't?

Little's main concern seems to be that foreigners (perhaps people with Chinese-sounding names) will buy up productive land. Why would they do that? Because they see the value and know full well the prices today are not going to last.

You will note that the price of land remains high - why? For the same reason farmers know this is temporary. But heaven forbid Little should let the facts get in the way of a good alarmist headline.

The head of Fonterra says quite clearly, yes, volatility is here to stay, but the price will recover. They're predicting $6 after this season. Why are all those who peddle the misery refusing the expert advice of those who actually might know something?

If I have one piece of advice for Theo Spierings, the head of Fonterra, it's to get out more, talk more, explain more. Dairy is a national story, it's not confined to the co-op and its owners.


My suspicion is, in the cloistered environs of Fonterra's head office they have a mindset that dairy is all too complex for most of us, that it's rural business only, and as long as the milk makes it to the lattes, then we don't care. Well we do, because dairy is important to this country. Behind tourism it makes more than anything else, and as such there is a national responsibility on them to get out and talk about it.

What troubles me most about the debate is our predilection for jumping on an overnight bandwagon - our almost automatic response to bad news, our ability to lose so much common sense and logic that we leap gleefully to the most negative scenario.

The head of Landcorp the other day in an article in this paper said the whole dairy model was broken - is it? Where was he when the price was $8.40? And, more importantly, he didn't go on to say what the answer was if it was broken.

Add Andrew Little and Winston Peters into the mix preaching doom and catastrophe and you're left with the feeling that these people just sit quietly on the sidelines during the good times hoping desperately for something bad to happen so they can unleash the negative headline-grabbing one-liners.

Our job, if we have one in all of this, is to not get suckered into the negative for the sake of it, to at least listen to those who know what they're talking about, and maybe to just apply a bit of common sense.

Remember what we're dealing with - milk. It is one of life's basics. The world loves milk, the world is growing at a rate where milk production overall can't keep up with demand ... yes, it goes up and down, but the big picture is the bit that counts.

The growing global middle class is voracious in its desire to upgrade its food intake and milk is part of that - and that's before you get to the bit where Fonterra actually makes a lot of dairy byproducts that you don't hear a lot about, but bang for buck make a fortune.

And then we come to Bill English's argument. Yes, dairy is a big deal, but it's not the only deal - there's plenty that's going well from meat to fruit to wine. And don't forget the dollar, which is now at a point that makes life much easier for our exporters.

We admire resilience on the sporting field, why don't we do the same on the farm? Why don't we trust those who are global leaders in what they do? The great danger in matters psychological is you can engineer a result. You think you're going to fail? You're probably right.

You think you're going to be okay? You're probably right.