DairyNZ has been busy preparing for this year's general election, releasing a wish list for the dairy sector as well as the results of a farmer survey today.

In the report, called The View from the Cowshed, DairyNZ listed 10 policy priorities the government should focus on to improve outcomes for dairy farmers and New Zealand.

"This election we wanted to give voice to dairy farmers' concerns and priorities to help politicians better understand the issues impacting on farmers. So, we surveyed our dairy farmers and asked them what they thought," said DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle.

While New Zealand had a reputation for producing sustainable and emission efficient dairy, Kiwi farmers still had significant confidence and wellbeing issues that pre-dated Covid-19, Mackle said.

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The View from the Cow Shed survey compiled feedback from dairy farmers across New Zealand, and highlighted challenges with mental health, technology and government regulation.

"It was really encouraging to see that 94 per cent of farmers reported they were proud to be working in the dairy industry at the moment - but at the same time, 62 per cent of farmers said they, or someone on their farm, had experienced mental health issues over the last year – with an uncertain regulatory framework identified as one of the main contributing causes."

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle. Photo / Supplied
DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle. Photo / Supplied

The survey showed that broadband connectivity was also a challenge for farmers, said Mackle.

"50 per cent of farmers said they don't have access to the broadband internet they need and 52 per cent don't have adequate mobile reception on farm."

When asked about their community's outlook over the next three years, 64 per cent of farmers expected things to decline, Mackle said.

Despite this, there were also positives to take from the survey results, especially when it came to animal welfare.

"Farmers were also asked what motivated them the most to get out of bed in the morning – what was great to see is that working and caring for animals is the main driver for 43 per cent of farmers. Providing for their family came in a close second."

"This sends a tremendous message that farmers really value what they do, and that animal care remains at the heart of their farming business," Mackle said.

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The farmer survey helped DairyNZ form its policy priorities for the next government.

"This information has informed our policy platform and identifies the top 10 things the next Government should do to improve outcomes for dairy farming families, their rural communities and New Zealand."

Read the full report at dairynz.co.nz/viewfromthecowshed.

Listen to Jamie Mackay's interview with Dr Tim Mackle on The Country below:

DairyNZ's policy priorities are:

Refocus investment in science

1. Invest in research and development for the primary sector to unlock more value and volume.
2. Set a clear strategy for science funding that is appropriately resourced to support farmers to reduce their environmental footprint while increasing profit.

Work with us to future-proof our sector

3. Work with the sector to meet workforce needs through training and recruitment of Kiwis as well as skilled migrant workers.
4. Invest in rural broadband and improved mobile coverage to better connect rural communities with New Zealand and the world.
5. Develop a national water storage strategy and invest in water storage to increase water supply in times of drought, enable land-use flexibility and unlock economic potential.
6. Develop and enforce a world-leading biosecurity system that is properly resourced, learns from our M. bovis experience and ensures everyone plays their part.
7. Reform the RMA to reduce compliance costs for farmers, increase efficiency and drive better environmental outcomes.

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Get our environmental settings and support right

8. Partner with farmers and support them to play their part to meet new environmental standards.
9. Ensure targets for water quality improvements are fair and equitable, clear, scientifically robust and have pragmatic timeframes for implementation.
10. Review the methane targets in the Zero Carbon Act to ensure they are firmly grounded in science and align New Zealand's international and domestic targets by applying a split gas approach to our Paris commitment and carbon budgets.