Last week I held farmers' meetings, with five of my caucus colleagues in attendance as part of our Provincial Priorities team.
The meetings in Te Awamutu and Otorohanga were well attended, but there was a common theme. The farming and rural community are extremely concerned and worried about the current direction the coalition led Government is taking New Zealand especially with their views on farming, compliance and lack of consultation on fresh water targets and the ETS scheme.
This is having a tangible impact on both farmers' mental health and businesses. The sector has spoken clearly and directly to the Government but they are not being listened to.
Recently, BakerAg sent an open letter to the Prime Minister, alongside the Agriculture, Environment and Health Ministers, which laid out the declining morale within the primary sector and the serious impact this is having on mental health. Sadly it was all but ignored by the Government.
The primary sector accounts for about 60 per cent of New Zealand's goods exports. If we want first-world healthcare, transport and education, we need to sell something to the world. Running down the industry that is supporting our way of life is perverse and has a negative effect on everyone.
Rather than demonising the rural sector, and by implication the farming families who create it, we should be celebrating them for the massive sustainability and environmental improvements they've made. In the past 30 years they've managed to produce more sheep meat from 32 per cent fewer sheep due to improvements with enhanced breeding mixes and enhanced lambing percentages.
Our dairy products are so much more sustainable that a litre of New Zealand milk shipped to Ireland – the next most efficient producer – would still have a lower emissions profile than Irish milk produced locally.
Recently, the Prime Minister told the United Nations she was "determined to show that New Zealand can and will be the most sustainable food producer in the world" and then separately "we must lead on reducing our agriculture emissions".
If this Government really wanted to stand up for our farmers then she should have been singing their praises as already being the most sustainable food producer in the world, as well as encouraging other nations to follow our lead in producing low emissions food.
It's this efficiency compared to every other nations that shows just how vital our food producers are to the world. If we weren't producing at the rate we are then another less sustainable producer would simply take that market share and global emissions would rise while our export revenue drops.
This crisis of confidence needs to turn around and the Government needs to wake up and put our primary sector at the forefront of its policy.