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Being a primary superpower

Being a primary superpower

Speech by Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers President, at the launch of Federated Farmers 2014 General Election Manifesto held at Lincoln University

Thank you for being a part of the launch for Federated Farmers 2014 General Election Manifesto.

I wish to acknowledge the apologies of the Dr Andy West, our gracious host, who is overseas as well as the Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon Nathan Guy and the Shadow Primary Industries Minister, the Hon Damien O’Connor.

I would also like to record the apology of a distinguished former Minister for Agriculture and Forestry, the Hon Jim Anderton as well as Act Party Agriculture spokesman and former Federated Farmers President, Don Nicolson.

Science is, and always has been, critical to New Zealand’s current and future prosperity.

However we cannot rest on our laurels and we cannot divert our attention from the one thing we excel at which is the main driver of our economy – Agriculture.

Science must continue to play its role in the primary sector.

So it is appropriate that we are launching Federated Farmers Manifesto, covering the 2014-17 parliamentary term, right here at Canterbury’s Lincoln University.

In July, the Government approved in principle funding of $107.5 million towards the rebuilding of Lincoln University’s science facilities destroyed in the Canterbury earthquakes.

Those earthquakes were an event in which farmers, including myself and faces I see before me, worked hard in as Federated Farmers’ Farmy Army.

It this sense of renewal, exemplified by this magnificent campus, that underscores the need for us to look forward for solutions and not backwards for problems.

This investment is part of a total campus rebuild budgeted at $349 million.

It will support Lincoln University as it becomes, along with Massey in Palmerston North, the epicentre of New Zealand’s primary research and innovation effort.

In a few years-time the new Lincoln Hub will see an exciting campus with crown research institutes co-located right here, at Lincoln.

Along with FoodHQ at Massey there is a generational opportunity to bring our scientists and academics together in a unique environment.

This is taking the creative spirit of the Google Campus and translating that to science, research and innovation in the primary industries.

This is why, today, I am announcing a bottom line for Federated Farmers if you like.

We are calling on the next government to increase its investment in New Zealand science by $600 million over the next three years.

If New Zealand is to have a world-class economy it needs world class investments to develop technologies, crops, feed and animals that will not only ensure our country remains globally competitive, but embraces our once and future role as a primary super power.

Our Manifesto is about embracing that future as a primary superpower.

If you want an economic strategy and vision, then New Zealand leadership in the biggest industry on earth provides it.

Currently, New Zealand has one of the lowest investments in research and development at around 1.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

While Federated Farmers does not believe we as a country are moving fast enough, we acknowledge that there is movement in the right direction and farmers are playing their part.

Initiatives such as the Primary Growth Partnership are encouraging industry investment in research and development.

Farmers already invest in Science and Innovation through their funding of organisations like Dairy NZ, LIC, the Foundation for Arable Research, Beef and Lamb, and the Meat Industry Association. We are talking some $100 million paid by farmers.

In addition, a considerable amount of business research and development is carried out by farmers themselves behind the farm gate, but it goes unrecorded in our national R&D figures. Contrary to some perceptions farmers are fast adopters of technology.

Federated Farmers believes science has a number of roles to play including:

strengthening capability and the ability to interpret and adapt new knowledge
protecting and improving national well-being, especially through public health and environment related science
tackling major challenges specific to New Zealand
not to mention, economic development in our core biological industries where we have a decided comparative advantage.

Investment in science and innovation in agriculture increases productivity, increases our opportunity to add value to our products, provides us with the tools to mitigate our environmental footprint and increases the efficacy of our biosecurity effort.

A significant part of the reason why agriculture earned 73 percent of New Zealand’s merchandise export earnings in 2013, was down to our science capability.

Implementation of government science effort should be strategic, co-ordinated and collaborative but with some competitive funding.

We support the conclusions of the CRI taskforce resulting in Crown Research Institute being better able to focus on the strategic needs of farmers and in getting the job done rather than an emphasis on institution competition and profitability.

The formation of the Centres of Research Excellence (CoREs) have also increased collaboration between institutions and in some areas are contributing to vital strategic capability for the primary sector.

That is why the potential loss of funding for the three CoREs targeting biosecurity, food innovation and reproduction, would be a strategic blow to New Zealand.

It is why this $600 million uplift over three years is needed.

Institutions like the Bioprotection Centre, Gravida and the Riddett Institute are fundamental to the success and advancement of our primary industries as well as our economy.

There is more.

Just yesterday Federated Farmers received an Official Information Act answer comparing primary industry graduates at certificate, diploma and degree level, with those in a range of other areas.

In general the trend to increase the number of graduates in the primary sector disciplines is moving in the right direction however we have a long way to go.

Last year, the primary industries graduated 365 people at degree level among all disciplines with a further 287 at certificate and diploma level.

Last year, we graduated just six people at degree level in Viticulture, our eighth largest export worth over $1.3 billion but graduated 332 in Sport and Recreation activities.

Last year, we graduated 14 people at degree level in Forestry, our third largest export worth just under $4 billion but graduated 24 people with degrees in acupuncture.

Last year we graduated 20 more people with degrees in music than people with degrees in a primary industries discipline.

Indeed the number of certificate, diploma and degree graduates combined, were easily outnumbered by those with a degree in Journalism, Communication and Media Studies.

The science disciplines are not easy but they are critical for our future prosperity and if we are to maintain our place in the world.

By 2025 it is forecast two-thirds of the primary industry roles will demand a post-school qualification. The challenge these figures throw up is this; are we moving fast enough?

To conclude, our Manifesto can be grouped into some thematic points.

The Federated Farmers Manifesto is about going forward as a primary superpower

It recognizes that the environment and economy are flipsides of the same coin

We support New Zealand’s low intervention economic prescription. It has and will continue to serve us well

We recognize that Science and innovation is critical to our future prosperity

And finally it is inherent in our Manifesto that our people are our biggest asset.

Our Manifesto is about building sustainable farm, business and science ecosystems which give us the collective means to go forward as a nation. We commend our politicians to read it and use its wisdom in their decision making.

We can and we will be more than we are today.

Thank you.

ends

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