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Dairy Farmers Of New Zealand Speech

Dairy Farmers Of New Zealand

Chairman's Speech

Speech by Kevin Wooding, Chairman of Dairy Farmers of New Zealand (DFNZ), DFNZ is the dairy industry group of Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc).

The speech was delivered at 9:40 a.m. on June 2 at DFNZ's Conference and Annual General Meeting at Wellington.

BEGINS

The last year has been an extremely busy one for Dairy Farmers of New Zealand (DFNZ) and for Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc).

The number of issues that we have dealt with over the last 12 months is remarkable. Not only are we facing international pressures but also have to deal with policies enforced by our own government.

With the theme of the conference 'staying internationally competitive', it is a shame to report that government has continued to bring in a number of new taxes over the last 12 months. These will impact on the profitability of our dairy farms.

It's great that we won the fart tax fight, but that is just one of many. The government continually needs to be told that there are too many costs being imposed outside the farm gate and that these costs only lead to the reduction in our ability to compete in the global market place in which we need to trade.

All these external pressures have meant that Federated Farmers' platform for the rural voice is as important as it has ever been. Federated Farmers is uniquely placed within the industry to lobby on behalf on all farmers. We must continue to ensure that our Government understands how our members operate and the implications that policy can have on the industry and rural life.

The F.A.R.T tax was one the Federation's more publicised wins but it is the numerous other small wins that really make the difference. For example, Federated Farmers successfully lobbied for farmers to be eligible for a petrol excise refund from ACC for petrol used in off road vehicles. Federated Farmers also succeeded in removing approved handler requirements for the majority of farmers handling petrol on farms and has made progress in the pesticides category. There are many other compliance issues that we still need to challenge. The time and effort put into individual submissions such as the implementation of the HSNO Act and the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill is critical to ensure that farming remains a sustainable business.

DFNZ has played a vital role in many of the Federation's successes by channelling feedback from members, contributing knowledge where it is needed, and putting in countless hours to deal with both local and national issues.

One of the most important strengths of DFNZ is its network, which connects us to our members and lets us share knowledge and experience. We have the potential and the resources to be heard and make a difference for ourselves and our industry. The credibility that we have developed for ourselves within the industry and the key relationships we have fostered mean that people are willing to listen to us and we can get involved in issues at an early stage, while it is easier to get things changed.

There are many challenges ahead, ranging from animal traceability to environmental and welfare issues to agrichemicals. With all these challenges it is important for us to use opportunities to build relationships domestically and internationally, which can make our knowledge base bigger and help meet the challenges ahead.

On the international front the executive had a useful exchange with our Australian counterparts from Australian Dairy Farmers Federation in Adelaide in March. We also visited dairy companies and organisations around Melbourne. I also had the opportunity to visit South Africa and address conference attendees on two topics; 'Industry Unity within the Fonterra Context' and 'The Value of Exports to the Dairy Farmer/producer'.

As I speak President Tom Lambie, Vice-President Charlie Pedersen and Chief Executive Tony St. Clair are attending the IFAP World Farmer's Congress. All this helps to keep New Zealand competitive internationally.

There has also been good co-operation on a national level. There has been increased co-operation between different primary sector organisations to fight unjustified compliance costs such as the border security fee. Industry has also agreed to collectively review the issue of animal identification.

The executive has seen much greater communication from the dairy industry organisations. We hope that this continual liaison with these sector organisations will mean better outcomes for farmers.

DFNZ can in particular be proud of the progress in making Dairy InSight more accountable. At last we're starting to see the dust settle over whose role it is to fund and deliver research for dairy farmers. Let's hope we get some real break throughs in research to keep our edge as the worlds most cost effective milk producers.

Articles in both the recent Dexcel Link and Dairy Exporter have reminded me that over the years New Zealand has repeatedly been involved in ground breaking dairy industry research. There has been advances in the areas of dairy genetics and pasture management. And who can forget that New Zealand farmers designed both the herringbone and rotary dairy platforms.

All the same I feel that investment for on farm research has been slipping in recent times and that to stay internationally competitive we urgently need innovative ideas to take farming a quantum leap forward.

The forming of the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) last year was another forum for New Zealand to maintain international competitiveness. It is great to see that New Zealand's major dairy companies can join forces to represent the dairy industry collaboratively on both domestic and international public policy issues.

Dairy farmers are expecting all dairy companies to improve their performance and give farmers an increased payout. We were pleased to see that Fonterra will review their payout for 2003/04 and 2004/05 next month, rather than as planned in October. Even with an increase it is on the cards that the payout for coming seasons will be lower. Dairy farmers need to continue to look at their own costs and structures.

It was a positive sign that Sharemilkers Section and Sharemilker Employers Sections had their AGM's concurrently and then meet on a more informal basis to discuss topics relevant to both sections. I hope that joint meetings will continue in coming years.

It is good to see Northland represented here today for the first time in many years. It is great to be able to communicate directly with farmers in Northland, to listen and learn about their aspirations and to involve them in the work of the Federation.

Locally we have seen communities work together to fight things such as school closures and also help each other after natural disasters such as in the lower north island. The weather kept going from one extreme to the other during the last 12 months. Firstly in spring, Northland dairy farmers faced extremely wet weather with many forced to milk once a day. South Otago and Southland then suffered the other extreme with an early drought. Then the devastating storm hit the lower North Island in February and left everyone in its wake stunned. The good news from all of these adverse events is the way many fellow farmers rallied to help in so many different ways. A special mention needs to be made to those who showed leadership during these events and to every single person who helped out.

Many thanks to all of you who put in so much effort, especially the other members of the executive who have given me great support over the past 12 months. I would like to thank all the representatives on the DFNZ Council for their leadership and huge amount of effort they put in, the policy and administration team for their hard work, and all our members for their support.

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