Why We Need A Viable Effective Agricultural Sector
WHY WE NEED A VIABLE EFFECTIVE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR
If more poeple understood what farming production of food in New Zealand was about the they would be a lot more supportive of the the agricultural sector. Ron Gall, executive officer, at Vegfed (NZ Vegetable and Potato Growers Federation) writes in the magazine, The Grower:
Farming is taken for granted by New Zealanders. Cheap, abundant food is now like cellular phones and fax machines. People don't understand the technology, they just want it to work. They have also come to expect huge helpings of food and have no idea how it got on their fork.
It's really a shame that New Zealanders have lost their connection to food. My grandmother in Scotland used to tell me stories about getting the children to bed and bottling product all night long during the hot summer months. She would put down as much as possible because she never knew how the crops would be next year or if there would be another mouth to feed. Today, what consumer worries if they will have enough food next year? At 4pm each day, around 70% of New Zealanders don't know what they're eating for dinner that night. More food is being consumed outside the home than inside. One more connection to the land has been lost.
A hundred years ago, most people grew up on a farm and realised just how fragile our food system was. Too much rain, too little rain, hail, wind and harsh winters meant you might not have an abundance of food on the table. Everyone understood why animals were harvested for food and may have even have had to chop the head off a chicken for the dinner plate.
Today no more than 10% of the population lives on farms and the connection is nearly lost. That's why radical environmentalists have popped up. They just don't understand the cycle of life, but their message is making it into the mainstream press. Agriculture must present a new message to consumers and Government to help them realise that keeping the New Zealand farmer alive is critical to the future of this country. They'll never understand or care how hard it is to raise a crop. Instead, the message should be that keeping NZ agriculture strong is a national security issue. Right now, the cheap food policy is shifting production of labour- intensive crops overseas, just like what has happened to the manufacturing industries in this country. As the world population booms, and food intake increases, what will happen when much of our specialty agricultural production has been shifted to the Third World. Do you think those Third World countries are going to pity us and ship over the food we no longer produce here? I doubt it. Farming is changing radically and the industry has to adapt. However, we need resources and research if we are to come up with the technology to support the farming industry. We also need the support of the bureaucrats so they don't regulate farming out of business.
The radical environmentalists are raising Cain about pesticide use and think farming should not use these tools nor biotechnology in our food production system. They don't understand that if that happens, yields will go down. Then we couldn't produce enough food and the country would have to become a net food importer and have zero control over how crops are grown.
Agriculture needs everyone on board and a simplified message that strong agriculture means a secure nation. If we can pull that off, maybe the citizens of this country will realise just what the farmer means to them and will help to keep agriculture strong and vigorous for generations to come.
We can but hope and work towards that end.