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Federated Farmers Dairy Section Chairman's Address

Frank Brenmuhl
Chairman Federated Farmers Dairy Section



Chairman’s Address

Welcome to your conference and annual general meeting of Federated Farmers Dairy Section.

Three years ago when I stood for the position of Federated Farmers Dairy Section chairman little did I realise the breadth of the job that I was about to undertake.

In the last three years we have endeavored to raise the profile of our organisation and we have succeeded. Now we are able to stand up and be heard on those issues that we deem important in a way that we were struggling to do three years ago.

We have worked with those organisations and government bodies to ensure that there is mutual respect and confidence. Ensuring that the issues can be aired in a way that does not undermine or denigrate those involved and solutions can be worked through to the benefit of all.

It has been your executive’s aim as responsible leaders in New Zealand’s largest industry to build on the work of our predecessors so that we as farmers can continue to work in the interests of our families and the benefit of the nation as a whole.

In February I said at our council meeting, “Wake up New Zealand it’s election year. This is when politicians make promises and tell us of the benefits that their efforts have bestowed upon us. It is the time when political parties, try to influence the public in order to justify their existence”.

My message and request was clear: Look at what they do, it is often very different from what they say.

During the intervening four months we have been under constant attack for being dairy farmers:

• For being dairy farmers, who are getting paid the world price for our much needed food products.
• For being dairy farmers, who are seen as privileged for owning dairy farms.
• For being dairy farmers who use the resources we own to produce food.
• For being dairy farmers, who should, because we are New Zealanders, subsidise our product so that other New Zealanders can buy our food products at a lower price than is currently available in the supermarket.
• For being dairy farmers who use water to produce food that the world needs.
• And for being dairy farmers that are being held responsible for greenhouse gas emissions that we have few options to reduce other than reducing food production at a time of world shortage of food products.

What do these people really want? Apart from re-election. New Zealand is a trading nation. We import nearly 60 percent of the food we eat and almost 100 percent of everything else we buy.

• We import rice, bananas, sugar, coffee and tea along with out of season foods and peanut butter.
• We import baby-clothes and toothpaste along with goods like large screen televisions and motor vehicles.
• We import products for the maintenance of the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed and the lifestyle that we as New Zealander’s want to keep.

As a trading nation we have to sell stuff in order to buy stuff. What part of this do they not understand? It must be both the buying and the selling because to date all these would- be politicians have to sell is empty promises and they do not want to buy stuff instead they want it given to them.

To have dairy farmers donate 15 million dollars so that they can pay less for the food they eat is not considered good enough they want more….. and they want… and they want… but they do not want to pay.

Why should farmers have to be better than, more considerate than, more accountable than the rest of New Zealanders? It is beyond my comprehension.

Why does the media continue to pander to those who do not speak the truth when putting forth an argument? Why does the media continue to try to seek conflicts of views when it knows that it is perpetuating a lie that will ultimately cost the nation dearly?

Recently I attended the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards grand finals in Christchurch. It was attended by 700 people and showcased the breadth of talent that we have in the New Zealand dairy industry. It proved, as it does every year, that the mainstream media is not interested in what really drives success in the dairy farming sector only that it is in their view over successful.

To me the evening showed that hard work, perseverance, personal denial and vision are what makes us what we are, successful. Am I ashamed of success? Not one bit. It is what is desperately needed for New Zealanders to be better off.

Hard work never killed anyone, my Dad used to say. Perseverance allows people to achieve goals, personal denial allows you to save for the things that you will need tomorrow, and vision is what is lacking in New Zealand as we continue to have our young people seek a better life in other countries.

These are the attributes of the successful people in the New Zealand industry and privilege has never been the x-factor to success.

The physical resources that we use, to produce food is what we have as a natural advantage over our overseas competitors. These do not belong to the Crown or the NGO’s or the politicians who seek election or re-election. The land we own is ours for as long as we choose to own it, unless it is stolen by the state. We are the custodians of the land and we know that for land to remain productive it must be maintained. We have not stolen the water that we use it has been allocated according to the laws of our country in the same way that title is issued for land tenure, be it freehold or lease. To say that we should be charged for something that others cannot even hold is arguing for a tax on water.

This is the politics of envy not enlightened use of resources. For a politician this is the epitome of envy because it is saying that “If I can’t have it you can’t have it either”. It has more in common with a common thief than a leader in society.

All of us believe in the role of the state to ensure that there is a safety net for the less fortunate in our society. Across the political spectrum this is defined by the degree to which personal freedom is defined. This election is about personal freedom, It is about the right of families to choose how they raise their children. It is about the right of farmers to continue to produce food for the world and revenue for this nation. It is about honest debate on the huge issue of anthropogenic climate change because this is an issue that if it is not done right it has the potential to make beggars of us all. I look forward to debate but I cannot abide lies and innuendo. It has no place in public discussion and I challenge the media to recognise the difference.

The public need to understand that we produce food that is at world-best-practice for greenhouse gases emissions per unit of product produced. Any reduction in output from New Zealand farms compounds the world issue of carbon emissions. This is ignored by those that demand agricultures inclusion in the Emissions Trading Scheme before we have time to find solutions to problems raised under the Kyoto Protocol. They want their cake and they want to eat it too.

The release of the Environment 2007 Report heralded another spate of distorted debate. The reference to the deleted chapter 13 and the ongoing reference is a disgrace. It is a chapter with out substance that was thrown out because it did not reflect the facts relating to the purpose of the report. To continue to do so recognises that no real justification exists for many of the attacks on agriculture and that all New Zealanders have a role to play in improving our environment. We live in a country that by world standards is superb. Our problems are compounded by the fact that for many of the issues raised under the Kyoto Protocol we are already at the forefront of the technology use. We are being asked to do more than many other countries simply because they have only to reach our standard, to meet their obligations. We will have to find new innovative ways to stay ahead of the game.

It has been a privilege to be the chairman of Federated Farmers Dairy Section. It has been challenging. It has opened doors to talk to those, who have the power to change things. Above all it has allowed me to work with great people and a great organisation. I wish to formally thank the council and the executive for their support and help and I wish those who continue this work the very best for the future.


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