The good, the bad, the ugly and the wrap of 2017:

The Good: Lamb, mutton and venison prices. Brexit? That was so 2016! Sheep farmers, so long the poor relation of their dairy farming counterparts over the boundary fence, finish the year with some much-needed Xmas cheer. Strong wool is still a 'dog' but as we all know, the planets never fully align in farming. Now, if we could just get some rain...

The Bad: Mycoplasma bovis without a doubt, with a dishonourable mention to Myrtle rust. M bovis has proved devastating, financially and emotionally, for the farming families involved. It has created quite a rift in the South Canterbury community, with talk of some contractors being forced to choose between working on infected or clean farms.

Depending on who you talk to, MPI has either done a good or an awful job of containment. Regardless of your persuasion, I just hope MPI has made the most of this very serious practice drill for the biggie, FMD, and that some of the knowledge garnered will not be dissipated and disbanded alongside the Ministry.


The Ugly: He wanted to be Time magazine's person of the year. He wasn't. He'd claim to be the politician of the year. I'd like to think that accolade goes to the admirable Angela Merkel, or Justin Trudeau, Emmanuel Macron or, heaven help me, even Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders! But the gong can only go to one man. In a country where the assassin's bullet has put paid to presidencies, he seems bullet-proof, despite a personal CV festooned with foibles and fallibilities. Love him or loathe him, and there's no middle ground, no one person has had more influence on the world in 2017 than Donald J Trump.

New Zealand's Politician of the Year: Her run from the back of the field makes Kiwi's effort in the 1983 Melbourne Cup look pedestrian. It's Jacinda Ardern by the length of the straight.

Biggest threat to farming in 2017: Take your pick! Drought, climate change, water harvesting (the lack of), environmental sustainability, the hard-line animal welfare lobby or the fickle commodity markets? Or maybe it's millennials? Younger folk under the age of 30 who aren't prepared to eat dinner at the expense of an animal that's made the ultimate sacrifice. There's an increasingly powerful elite lobby group, featuring the likes of Bill Gates, Richard Branson and James Cameron pushing plant-based protein to save the planet.

Agricultural Person of the Year: Worthy mentions have to go to Katie Milne, Federated Farmers' first female president and Dean Hamilton, the retiring chief executive of Silver Fern Farms, who helped turn around the floundering cooperative, albeit by making 50% of the company effectively uncooperative. John Penno has done wonders at Synlait and Lain Jager has left Zespri in much better shape than he found it. Then there's Theo Spierings and John Wilson who can also give themselves a pat on the back and a self-satisfied slap on the wallet for being the highest paid chief executive and director, respectively, in the land.

Damien O'Connor has finally got the top job in agriculture, one he long coveted but never thought he'd get until the climate change fairy Jacinda cast her magic spell. And Jacinda herself deserves every accolade for the fastest political ascension since David Lange. Just as he was the poster boy for the anti-nuclear movement, she has become Al Gore's poster girl for climate change.

But ultimately my Ag Person of the Year is the man who put Jacinda into power. Yes, he's a cantankerous old bugger. Yes, he probably was guilty of being somewhat duplicitous in the coalition negotiations, considering he filed legal papers against several leading Nats the day before the election.

But one thing you can't accuse him of is lacking charm, charisma and downright native cunning. Despite all his bluster and protestations about involving the NZ First board and his MPs in the process, he's the man who single-handedly decided the government. And make no mistake, this government will have a profound effect on farming for the next three years.

In fairness, he's also the man who will stick to his word and go in to bat for the provinces, having negotiated a billion dollar annual slush fund for the far flung. We've already seen his up-sized mini-me Shane Jones rock the coalition boat with his talk of supporting irrigation schemes and working for the dole.

So take a bow Winston Peters, 2017 was your year!