Comment: Federated Farmers' new president Andrew Hoggard says farmers need more fun and less admin.
I have been involved with Federated Farmers leadership for 17 years now, starting out as the Young Farmers rep, then moving into the provincial Vice-Dairy role once I became an old fart at 31.
Now I have only three years left - or less if I really suck at my new job as national president.
Since taking on the role three weeks ago I've been giving quite a bit of thought to what I would like to see achieved in my term.
It's certainly not lost on me the responsibilities that go with this privileged position within New Zealand's agricultural scene.
While the federation itself will of course be hammering away on the big policy issues and they will direct the focus of our resources, for me personally, I would love to see a vast improvement in what I view as smart farming tech solutions that reduce the compliance burden.
One of the big challenges I see with compliance in all its many forms isn't just doing the right thing, it's proving to the person with the clipboard that you have done the right thing.
With the likes of the Essential Freshwater programme and actions for climate change almost certainly going to result in the requirement for all farmers to have farm plans, it will likely be a massive admin headache for \farmers if these plans are additional to all the recording they are already doing.
They could also be costly to industry and local government when it comes to approving and auditing these farm plans - and we can all work out where that additional cost will be meet from.
More importantly, I hear from farmers that the increased compliance burden of recording all these inputs and outputs is sucking the fun out of farming.
I already record lots of information on my farm. My biggest frustration is that I do a lot of it in programmes that provide value and decision-making tools for me in my farming business, then I'm forced to often retype it all out into another programme to satisfy compliance.
Like most farmers I have a natural hatred of doing a job twice, or in the case of some compliance data, eight times. Then of course this needs to be audited to ensure you typed the right numbers across.
We need to be smarter about setting up systems to allow that data to be shared, with the farmer's permission.
This will cut down on not only the admin for the farmer but the need for auditing and thus the cost of auditing.
One simple example: rather than me having to print out the copy of the machine check report done by my dairy shed maintenance providers, when they email it me to me they also email it directly to Fonterra. That's one box that automatically gets ticked without me needing to do anything. Think how many simple little things like that could be done.
Of course this all brings up another bug bear – connectivity. This only works if you have decent broadband and cellphone coverage to make it work.
With decent connectivity you also have the ability for more remote data collection from out on the farm, which provides verified data not only for compliance but for decision making.
By bringing more data together it can also provide you with more valuable insights into your business and how to make more efficiency gains.
None of us went farming to fill in boxes and sit in front of computer screens all day long.
We did it because we enjoy the freedom, being outdoors, the physical nature of the work and the feeling of satisfaction we get from seeing a job done well.
So if I have a pet project for the next three years - accepting the fact I will have to deal with whatever gets thrown at me – it's to try and make compliance recording less of a burden and more of an opportunity and to basically make farming fun again.