by Jim van der Poel, DairyNZ; Andrew Morrison, Beef + Lamb NZ

As industry good bodies, our activities and actions are often under close watch. Farmers care about the future of their sector and are genuinely concerned about the speed and scale of the regulatory changes currently happening and the impact that will have on their families. We are too.

The question about advocacy comes up often. It’s a hot topic and one we all know is so crucial for agriculture. Farmers want to be part of the solution but need rules that are practical and doable. However, it is complex, and industry organisations such as Beef + Lamb New Zealand, DairyNZ and Federated Farmers are collaborating on a range of issues, with each group playing a vital role.

Of course, it is tough to convince Government and officials to change tack and bring in rules that still deliver the outcomes we all want but also work on the farm. We do not win every discussion. But what we have achieved is securing better policies than the ones we would otherwise have faced.

Strong and effective advocacy involves a wide range of approaches. That includes conversations with officials and ministers, supported by credible science and expertise. Our approach is to always show a more logical approach when that is needed and push back on policies that just do not make sense.

In our experience, multiple organisations advocating for aligned, better outcomes has more influence than one organisation doing it. While not perfect, we have managed to roll back a range of original proposals that were not practicable and we are continuing to work together to fix those remaining.

Action for Healthy Waterways was DairyNZ’s largest submission – contributing economic modelling and scientific analysis to help get better solutions. The proposed DIN review has been parked, fencing rules removed and the 190kg nitrogen cap timeframes shifted out to help farmers adjust.

DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb NZ and Federated Farmers were part of the Southland Advisory Group which delivered a one-year delay in the winter grazing regulations. We continue to work hard to deliver better solutions and ensure impractical rules such as pugging and sowing dates are permanently deleted. We’re also jointly talking with the Government about the low slope map and we’re confident we can get a good outcome.

We all successfully argued for a split gas approach which is much more logical and means methane doesn’t have a net zero target, which it shouldn’t, and we prevented agriculture from going into the Emissions Trading Scheme.

He Waka Eke Noa is a valuable solution and alternative to a $70 million per year tax at processor level which would have been in place now. Industry and government are now working together to introduce a practical mechanism that will encourage farmers to play their part in meeting NZ’s commitments to the Paris Accord.

We are also working closely together on the biodiversity NPS and freshwater farm plan.

Levy organisations must be supported by farmers for them to be successful – last year DairyNZ received a 69% yes vote by voters and, this year, Beef + Lamb have their vote underway. That endorsement is significant for our organisations and we are here to continue working hard on farmers’ behalf.

We know there is a wide variety of views out there about our organisations. We also accept it is impossible to please everyone. But we do believe working together on the issues that matter is critical. A divided sector is a weaker sector and a less effective one.