Comment: Some organisations still insist on painting farmers in a bad light, no matter how much good work they do, writes Federated Farmers senior policy advisor, Darryl Sycamore.
So where are all these agricultural laggards we hear of in the media?
And when was the last time you stopped for a chat with a farmer in your region and asked them the same question?
• Why this townie is standing up for farmers
I make time to chat to South Island farmers every week, and I'm still to find one who isn't committed to investing in their land and business.
What I do see are authentic, hard-working families who care about their land and animals but are still branded social pariahs by some green interest groups.
That isn't to say all farmers are operating at industry best standard; some have work to do.
Despite the commitment by the rural sector to improve their footprint, organisations like Fish & Game persist, in my opinion, in their PR campaign to cast farmers and the primary industry in a negative light.
This was never more evident than in their recent email newsletter encouraging people to submit to the freshwater proposals, where in my opinion inflammatory and patently untrue photo captions were used.
Reading between the lines of some anti-farmer rhetoric one could be forgiven for thinking Kiwi farmers are so 'country' they think a seven-course meal is a possum and a six-pack.
It is simply a nonsense used by protagonists to exacerbate any perception of the urban-rural divide. Rural families have the same worries as their urban counterparts.
Worries of farmers I hear personally include whether they can financially help the kids through university, and managing mental wellness.
Farmers are opening their wallets investing in minimising their environmental footprint to a degree that would make most urbanites' eyes water.
A recent Federated Farmers and DairyNZ survey of dairy farmers revealed an estimated spend of over $1billion in environmental improvements over the past five years.
Otago-Southland dairy farmers each spent on average over $150,000 per farm over that period.
And let's not forget that farmers grow food - for fellow Kiwis and the ever-expanding global population.
They also pay tax and add to the wealth of the country so our Government has cash to spend on schools, hospitals or welfare support.
Of the $58.3 billion worth of goods exported in the year to June 2019, the primary sector accounted for $46.4b.
Take farmers out of the economic equation and our Government would be on its knees begging the UN for a handout.
And while farmers continue to be paddled by the media, the regulatory environment that seeks to manage water quality and biodiversity is about to change dramatically.
Most crucially to farming and water quality is the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.
It is clear this regulation will transform farming systems across the country, and will hit city-dwellers for billions in infrastructural upgrades.
The NPS for Indigenous Biodiversity is also due for release for public submissions and will likely have a profound impact on land use.
There is no doubt, farming in NZ is about to change on an unprecedented scale. And yes, maybe it is overdue in some catchments.
Sadly, and despite these regulatory game-changers on the horizon, farmers are still being persecuted relentlessly by some green NGOs.
Wellbeing and mental health issues have never been more pronounced in the sector.
Many farmers and their families are hurting, and it is time interest groups eased up on their media campaigns. Their ongoing assault is hurting farming families and contributing to the desperation of many genuinely good folk.
Let's not forget, no one is without blame for the current state of our environment.
Urban councils continue to allow human waste to overflow into waterways right across the country. The cost of infrastructure upgrades to achieve these new standards will be in the tens of billions and will fall on the ratepayer.
Ironically, the farmer's greatest critics should, in my opinion, shoulder the greatest blame for environmental destruction in the rural environment.
We can thank them for the introduction of rabbits, ferrets, possums and weasels. In our rivers, no greater predatory impact has occurred to indigenous species than the introduction of trout.
Whilst they consume native fish to, or towards, extinction Fish & Game continue to sink the boot into farmers with impunity and little recognition of their own duplicity.
Irrespective of one's view, farming is and will underpin the nation's prosperity.
While environmental controls on water quality may have not contemplated the dairy boom, it is clear this Government has a vision to make drastic changes to legislation.
Perhaps it is time press the pause button and give the new regulations a chance to turn the tide.
So go on, take a moment to say gidday to a farmer next time you escape the city. You just may be surprised ...