Farmers need to consider how they can have a stronger voice to represent their industry as it faces an endless barrage of regulations.
To be effective, agriculture must identify who it should be lobbying, and what messages are going to garner support. It needs a strategy rather than ad hoc responses, and we need to resource it properly, so we have a serious crack at defending the future of our industry.
The threat is not only to agriculture but to New Zealand's future prosperity, this is too important for us to continue bumbling along.
Agriculture is facing rules and restrictions on many fronts; Freshwater, biodiversity, animal welfare, greenhouse gas emissions and also bearing the brunt of rampant local government rate rises.
Unfortunately, most of this regulation is impractical to implement, will achieve marginal
environmental gains compared to the momentum that's already under way, and even worse any economic impact analysis has never been done or is woefully inadequate.
This should be no surprise as the working groups excluded agricultural representation, and the consultation and select committee process had been bypassed.
There has been discussion on what organisation is best to represent the agriculture industry.
Federated Farmers had the advocacy space to themselves for a long time, and with their experience they understand and do this role very efficiently and effectively.
B+Lamb NZ and DairyNZ have moved into the advocacy space alongside their core role of technology transfer on farm. Some commentators feel this is duplication, but each sector has different pressure points from impending regulations and each sector needs to find its own solutions.
What is critical is that agriculture is united with the same message when pushing back on the government; politicians and the media is always looking for a weak party when searching for acceptance for their proposals.
There is room for different groups lobbying for agriculture, because there are different audiences that need different tactics to engage with. Feds and the levy bodies are trying to maintain a constructive relationship with government ministers and officials so that they still have a place at the negotiating table.
This measured response often frustrates farmers who want a more vocal opposition, and that is where groups such as Fifty Shades of Green and Groundswell also have their place.
Farmers are hugely passionate about their farms, their families and their communities, and somehow we need to harness this in our opposition. An effective way of influencing the government is we capture the support of urban voters; the silent majority of whom are rational, understand the importance of the agriculture economy and like to see people treated fairly.
But we need to think about our message, we cannot afford to portray ourselves as redneck farmers resisting the need to improve our practices. We should however promote the environmental progress that we have made through farmers' own initiative and investment.
Whilst Groundswell is calling for farmers to bar entry to regional council officers, it should also get each farmer to document the environmental work that they have done on their back over the past 5 years.
We need bold actions to get the media attention, but when we have it, we must make sure we deliver the right message to urban New Zealand. Like a hand of trump cards, it needs to be a combination of messages that can be dealt to maintain the conversation and to build the public pressure on the government.
Part of that message will be that there is a better way for the country of making environmental gains and climate targets than the dictatorial regulations being enforced by Ministers Parker and Shaw.
The current regulations threaten the future ability of farmers to farm profitably and sustainably.
The farming sector needs multiple lobby groups, well-resourced and co-ordinated in their messages to different target audiences. To be successful farmers need to contribute financially, be prepared to get off farm to support the causes and do their bit to show urban New Zealand that we already have a great environmental story of progress.
Farmers need to front up themselves to support our lobby groups, otherwise they may deny their next generation the great opportunities of a farming career.