Former Federated Farmers president William Rolleston has been recognised for helping bring science to the fore of the agricultural industry in the New Year Honours.

Rolleston, who was president of the farmers' lobby group from 2014 until June 2017, was made a companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to the farming industry.

The official Government citation praises Rolleston for championing evidence-based arguments and science when it came to issues confronting farmers, as well as engaging with farmers about their impact on the environment while proactively seeking solutions.

Under his leadership, the industry moved to negotiate Government Industry Agreements for Biosecurity.

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Rolleston was also credited with playing a "pivotal role" in the formation of the so-called Farmy Army, formed in response to the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, and was himself a volunteer.

Among other important roles he has held, Rolleston was vice president and acting president of the World Farmers Organisation, the founding chairman of New Zealand's Biotechnology Industry Organisation and of the Life Sciences Network, and has been appointed to various government science policy positions.

Rolleston also co-established the biotechnology company South Pacific Sera in 1988, producing high-quality biological products for export and supporting the Woodhouse Scholars Programme, which provides educational opportunities for young people from South Canterbury in the biological sciences.