Shane Jones arrived at the Dairy NZ Farmers' Forum in Whangārei ready to eat humble pie after having called farmers a bunch of ''moaners''.

''I want to use this opportunity to redeem myself,'' the Regional Economic Development Minister said yesterday about name-calling farmers during a broadcast some days earlier.

Jones, who is also Forestry Minister and Infrastructure Minister, and Associate Minister for the Finance, State Owned Enterprises and Transport portfolios, was at the conference yesterday to speak about what agriculture and dairying mean to Northland.

Apologising for his ''moaners'' jibe, Jones spoke of his own agricultural pedigree.


''Those of you who've known me for years know my dad raised us on a dairy farm on the California flats near Awanui,'' he said.

''I've taken a lot of those country values with me and a very earthy approach to life has never left me.''

DairyNZ General Manager Responsible Dairy Jenny Cameron, said the sector acknowledged New Zealand First's championing agriculture and regional development in general. Cameron gave the ''billion trees'' and Provincial Growth Fund initiatives as examples.

''We very much welcome the attention NZ First is bringing to the regions. This is MMP in action," she said.

On the question of trade deals benefiting farmers, Jones said it was of concern to NZ First that New Zealand still had no free trade agreement with the United States but has had one with China for 10 years.

''I'm not happy that we have such exposure to one market, and also to Australia which has even greater exposure to China.

''How do we, as a Government which has a lot of inter-connected roots in the [regions], profit from international trade while retaining essential Kiwi country values and aspirations?

''How do we do that without disappearing into the orbit of Chinese and US geo-political policies?''


Jones predicted there would be a lot of ''horse trading'' with ''the Nats'' [National Party] having promised a positive vote for the first reading of the Climate Change Bill yesterday afternoon .

The bill sets out a 10 per cent reduction target of biological methane emissions by 2030, and aims for a 24-47 per cent reduction by 2050.

Jones said he understood the ''deep disappointment'' many dairy farmers felt over the bill.

''But, times, they are a-changing, folks.''

He said farmers were increasingly at the mercy of and should be wary about the ''metropolitanisation of political and economic power''.

''NZ First wants to be a voice that carries country values and concerns into Parliament.''