Pressured farmers get pat on back

Benjamin Franklin’s famous 18th century quote says there are only two certain things in life — death and taxes.

However, change can also be added to his list.

Change is constantly in the minds of farmers with the everincreasing pressure to conform to greater demands from environmentalists, politicians, trading partners and the consumers who buy our products.

We are constantly making progress but there are plenty of adverse pressure groups calling out ‘‘it’s not enough’’.

However, I was heartened to recently read an article in a farming magazine referring to a speech delivered by Gavin Hodgson at the Silver Fern Farms conference in Christchurch in July.

Mr Hodgson is the director of agriculture, horticulture, and aquaculture at Sainsbury’s United Kingdom supermarket chain, which operates more than 800 convenience stores and more than 600 supermarkets and accounts for 15% of all UK supermarket sales.

Hodgson gave New Zealand farmers a pat on the back by stating that they were years ahead to meet the environmental and social needs of customers.

He had noticed a substantial difference since his last visit four years ago.

But there are always ongoing demands made by the consumers such as human rights, food waste, plastic, animal welfare, water and carbon emission.

Our carbon and methane emissions have been part of the government agenda recently, as it announced its controversial policy requiring farmers to report farm-level emission from the end of next year and will put a price on those emissions in late 2025.

The first and only country to tax livestock emission and we only had 6.1 million dairy cows, 3.9m beef cattle and 25.3m sheep as of June last year.

In comparison, India had 308m cattle, Brazil had 250m, the United States had 91.9m. None of those countries have immediate plans for such a scheme.

Wouldn’t the tax taken be better funding for animal research scientists working hard to find inhibitors to reduce methane in the rumen, and who are confident they are not far away from a breakthrough?

Even though we comply to the consumers’ costly demands so our products can command premiums, as soon as there is a downturn like we are experiencing now, and the consumers disposable income drops, the value of our products are compromised.

It makes you wonder, is it all to no avail?