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Federated Farmers welcome return to surplus

Federated Farmers welcome return to surplus

Federated Farmers welcomes the confirmation in today’s Budget of a return to surplus.

“The projected surplus for 2014/15 might be small but if achieved it will be a great milestone resulting from a lot of hard work,” says Federated Farmers’ President Bruce Wills.

“The achievement of a surplus should not be underestimated given the impact firstly of the Global Financial Crisis and then the devastating Canterbury Earthquakes.

“Most importantly for our economy, is to have a surplus combined with continued spending restraint to take the pressure off monetary policy and therefore interest rates and the New Zealand Dollar.

“A surplus also gives us some real choices for the first time in several years, choices which our friends across the Tasman would love to have in the wake of their own Budget.

“Repaying debt should be the most important priority, but providing the surpluses are enduring we can think about tax cuts or spending a little more. What room there is to move should be spent on things that will make the boat go faster like infrastructure, R&D, and building skills. We can also think about restoring contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. The Government is clearly thinking along similar lines and it’s no surprise that there is an emphasis on initiatives to help families.

“The primary sector should be well-placed to continue to drive the economy forward and we welcome the $40 million budgeted for irrigation investment, the increased funding for research and science, and $8.5 million more for agriculture tuition subsidies at tertiary institutions. It’s good to see initiatives that will advance the primary industry.

“In particular, we welcome the $20 million in funding for freshwater and environmental initiatives. The implementation of the National Policy Statement on Fresh Water Management will be all the better for the $12 million to help councils and communities in their decision making and implementation processes, and consequently the $3 million for the Ministry for the Environment to implement RMA reforms.

“Although dairy commodity prices are back off their earlier highs, commodity prices overall remain strong and with Asia continuing to grow and wanting our food. With the Budget looking to invest $69 million to expand New Zealand’s presence in China, South America and the Middle East, the outlook should be good.

“That’s not to say there aren’t any clouds on the horizon. As the Reserve Bank said yesterday, agricultural debt remains high albeit concentrated with 50 percent of dairy sector debt held by around 10 percent of dairy farmers. These farmers could suffer from a large drop in dairy pay-outs especially if there is also a drop in land values, which could then have wider impacts across farming as well as the economy as a whole.

“The Reserve Bank sees the fragilities in China’s financial system as a risk to commodity prices, which would impact on New Zealand. I agree with this assessment so it is doubly important that we do all we can as a country to ensure that we minimise the risk of policy own-goals.

“With the election silly-season upon us, I am worried about anti-farming ‘dog whistle’ rhetoric from some of our politicians and proposals from some parties for a capital gains tax, an extension of the ETS to agricultural biological emissions, and a ‘resource rentals’ tax on water.

“Most of all though we need promises from all parties for continued spending restraint, and not to blow the surpluses before they’ve arrived. To stay in the black we need to act like we’re in the red,” concluded Mr Wills.


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