It was a clean sweep with new officers voted in at Federated Farmers' Wanganui province annual general meeting on May 25.

Past president Harry Matthews has moved to the South Island and Mike Cranstone takes on the lead role. He and his wife Cath have an 1800ha sheep and beef farm, with a Hereford stud, at Fordell.

The province's new dairy chairman is Chris Davison, and Grant Adkins takes on the chair for meat and wool.

Former Wanganui dairy and meat and wool chairmen Brian Doughty and Tim Matthews have been part of the organisation for decades. They move to back seats, though Doughty will still be active in the Ruapehu/Wanganui Rural Support Trust and Matthews will continue to work in policy.

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The Wanganui province has 179 Federated Farmers members. Cranstone aims to provide strong representation to local and regional councils, and to government.

He said farming faces challenges from new regulation and from public criticism.

"We want to make sure there's accuracy and balance in the public debate, and put forward a case to make sure any changes are achievable, practical and fair."

Farmers accept the challenge of improving their environmental footprint, but want input into how this is done.

"Our farming systems evolved over decades of farming by innovative, environmentally conscious farmers who want to produce from and preserve their land. We have to make sure how they have evolved isn't thrown out by impractical and rushed legislation."

The AGM had two speakers, national Federated Farmers meat and wool chairman Miles Anderson and Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie.

Anderson fears land suitable for sheep and beef farming will be gobbled up by rival land uses - dairy and forestry.

Dairy is taking the easy country and forestry the harder country, Cranstone said.

"The risk is if the market is distorted by government policy, sometimes land ends up not in its best use."

M. bovis is giving farmers a hard time, McKelvie said.

"This stress is something I have never seen in farming before. It's affecting farmers who've got it, and farmers next door to others with it."

Those who will suffer most are sharemilkers whose whole equity is in a herd, and also cattle dealers and stud breeders, Cranstone said. He backs the Government attempt at eradication, and said farmers now have to look to their own biosecurity.

The effect of the disease in New Zealand is unknown. It comes out when animals are under stress and in this country they are outdoors and subject to stress from weather.

Like Anderson, McKelvie was concerned about land suitable for sheep and beef being put into forestry under Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones' billion trees initiative. He said new legislation will allow overseas owners to buy land if it is for forestry.

He's worried they will buy sheep and beef farms and plant right across them.

"The SLUI [Horizons Regional Council's Sustainable Land Use Initiative] doesn't do that. Shane Jones understands that but I'm not sure he wants to do anything about it."

McKelvie also wants new legislation to deal with rural crime. He said jailing young people for rustling or poaching isn't the answer and confiscation is better - taking their gun, dog or truck.