Comment: Now is the time for the government to publicly acknowledge that they need to hold fire on all proposed agricultural legislation until the dust settles, writes Rangitikei farmer Andrew Stewart.

Never, ever in our wildest nightmares could anyone have imagined what a whirlwind this Covid-19 outbreak would be for our world.

Borders closing, self-isolation, panic buying and business uncertainty are all now our reality even before we head into the unknown territory that is a total lockdown.

It is still difficult to comprehend all that is happening during these testing times.


The past week has been a rollercoaster of emotions in my farming year.

Firstly, there was a wave of relief as I was finally able to send some older ewes off the farm for the first time this year.

Next came the calamity that is Covid-19, spreading fear and uncertainty amongst us all as quickly as the actual virus itself. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Happiness came in the past couple of days when some gentle rain finally fell on our drought-stricken pastures.

And lastly came a sense of pride, albeit a little hollow, that our farming industry has finally been recognised by our government as being an "essential service".

The last feeling has outstripped all the other emotions put together.

As a farmer in New Zealand, I know that we produce healthy and sustainable food, fibre and produce more efficiently than anyone else on the planet. That is a fact.


We, as farmers, have been desperate to tell that story to the masses for decades. We may not have been the best storytellers at times and sure there are those amongst us that let the rest of the team down on occasion. But we have all been working hard to improve our practices so that we continue to achieve at the highest level.

But it has taken a global pandemic for the government to seemingly realise just how important our primary industries are to not only our economy, but the nation's survival.

Last year the same government was happy to bombard us with proposed legislation, or taxes in drag, to placate themselves from unrealistic environmental goals.

They polluted us with carbon chaos, drowned us with fresh water excrement and buried us with biodiversity b....... with little consultation and no consideration for the damage they might do. In short, they lined up their own golden goose and unloaded three solid shells at spitting distance.

These hideous changes to our farming lives are still simmering away behind the chaos of Covid-19. I know that managing this crisis is the toughest challenge this country has ever faced. And I must give Jacinda and co credit for acting quickly and decisively thus far. But one thing it has proved without any doubt is that our pathway to prosperity when we come out the other side will be on the backs of our primary industries.

Now is the time for the government to publicly acknowledge that they need to hold fire on all proposed legislation until the dust settles. Much of the country is still in a drought on top of coping with Covid-19 and we need the government to place urgent moratoriums on all proposed legislation until this crisis is behind us.

That needs to happen now, so we farmers can focus on what we do best. Farming.

I have heard comments like "war", "battle" and "unprecedented" being bandied about by many politicians. These truly are extraordinary times that we live in. But those times are when true leaders recognise their strengths and weaknesses, their mistakes and how to learn from them and ultimately how to be remembered for their legacy.

Our little island nation at the bottom of the world will get through this if we all work together and cooperate. Healthy and nutritious food will be at the top of the planet's priority list for the foreseeable future. So, let's put our differences aside for the moment, acknowledge the vital importance that our farming industry is to the country and protect and enhance it at all costs.

History is littered with leaders from around the globe that have recognised the true importance of agriculture. I can only hope that our country's leaders have somewhat of an epiphany and resolve to embrace their farmers rather than persecute them.

It was the US president Thomas Jefferson who said, "Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness."

Surely such wisdom from 200 years ago is as relevant today as it was then.