Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, NZ Young Farmers (NZYF) has cancelled the remaining FMG Young Farmer of the Year 2020 Contest including the Grand Final.
"Like other businesses, organisations and sporting events, we need to respond and do our part to limit the spread of this virus," NZYF said in a statement.
Before the severity of the outbreak became clear, NZYF had looked at the possibility of postponing three FMG Young Farmer of the Year South Island Regional Finals to hold at a later date, but now said "it's quite clear that's no longer an option".
Four North Island Regional Finals were held before the Covid-19 outbreak, however Aorangi, Tasman and Otago Southland Regional Finals have had to be postponed indefinitely.
NZYF CEO Lynda Coppersmith said it's the first time in the contest's 52-year history that the Grand Final and remaining Contest season has been cancelled.
"I appreciate this decision will be disappointing for everyone involved with the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Contest, but for the safety of competitors, volunteers, spectators and sponsors it's the right thing to do," said Coppersmith.
"I'd like to acknowledge all of our competitors this year and in particular highlight the efforts of our four Grand Finalists for 2020 who support the decision and appreciate the unique situation we're all in. We also want to thank our South Island Regional Finalists for their patience as we worked through the postponement of their regional finals."
The NZYF Board had agreed to take a clean slate approach to next year's contest, "in the interests of being as fair as we possibly can to the contest and all competitors" said Coppersmith.
"That means the 2020 Grand Finalists, along with all those who have qualified for the cancelled Regional Finals will need to re-qualify at district level for Regional Finals and Grand Final 2021. This year's Grand Finalists will keep their titles as FMG Young Farmer of the Year for their Region."
"Given this is an unprecedented situation, the Board has agreed to show flexibility with a one year age extension and also revoke the number of Grand Final and Regional Final qualifications for the 28 competitors affected."
"This flexibility will apply to 2020 Grand Finalists, and those who have qualified for the cancelled Regional Finals."
"These are trying times for so many of us right now, and we could not run the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Contest, nor begin planning to rearrange it, without the support of our sponsors–and I'd like to thank them for that support."
FMG Young Farmer of the Year 2019, James Robertson, will continue as the reigning champion until the 2021 season.
Robertson said he supported the cancellation of the 2020 contest season, calling it a big decision but the right decision.
"Two weeks ago we never thought we would be in the current situation, which has created uncertainty for NZFY members, staff, contestants and the family of sponsors. But in these extraordinary times our community's health undoubtedly comes first."
"This will be disappointing news for everybody involved but it helps provide certainty for the contestants and allows their time to be redirected to themselves and their families over the next few months."
Robertson said his thoughts were with those who qualified for Grand Final, as well as the South Island competitors who did not get to compete.
"Countless hours and even years of planning goes into preparing for the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final, but this time has not gone to waste. I have no doubt the contestants will demonstrate their resilience and begin thinking about the fast approaching 2021 contest season."
"All the skills you develop during the build up to the contest become skills for life, that's what the contest is all about."
As the principal sponsor of the Contest, FMG fully backed NZYF's decision. FMG said it would work with NZYF, its Board and the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Contest organising committee, along with other sponsors, to prepare for the 2021 season.
AgriKids and FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year Grand Finals will be run online
Coppersmith said the NZ Young Farmers team worked extremely hard to reformat the two competitions for primary school-aged children and secondary school students following Government announcements around events and mass gatherings on March 16th.
Competitions were moved online which enabled AgriKids and FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year contestants for Aorangi, Tasman and Otago Southland to still compete and winners for each region to be selected.
Coppersmith said the competitions in this format were extremely successful and is thanking the teachers, supervisors and students involved for taking part.
This has set a pathway to also allow the respective Grand Finals to be hosted online which the NZ Young Farmers team and sponsors are working closely together to organise.