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Why Not Support The Farmers?

Written By: - Date published: 8:43 am, July 17th, 2021 - 106 comments
Categories: climate change, Economy, Environment, ETS, farming, food, Free Trade, national, trade - Tags:

The Groundswell farmers have a set of seven demands, listed here.

Stuff have done an explainer of each of the issues they want addressed, and what it means for government policy and for our land, here.

They want the new freshwater policy scrapped.

They want the “ute tax” removed.

They want lots of imported labour for farm work.

They want parts of the emissions trading scheme dumped.

They want the new Significant Natural Area policy dumped.

They want the draft policy on indigenous biodiversity scrapped.

And they want the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill stopped.

Let’s see who turns up for this today, and whether it grows at all.

I thought I’d point out a few things in their favour, and then a few against them. Briefly.

New Zealand’s entire export economy depends on our dairy farmers doing really well. They don’t get thanks from anyone let alone government or townies, and actually they should. We have a world-leading position as sustainable pastoral food producers. Our pasture-based farming systems have lower greenhouse emissions than most of the meat and milk produced in the world. For dairy, emissions are an estimated 40% lower per litre than the global average. We have minimal use of machinery, cultivation, spraying, harvesting, processing, fodder transport, and subsequently removal of effluent. And our net emissions are lower still because grass removes carbon and nitrogen from the atmosphere.

Dairy exports are the only reason New Zealand remains a first world country with first world public services.

Our national water quality sits in the top five on the  Global Open Data Index.   And before we frown at how long it takes our almond milk latte to arrive, we should also acknowledge that dairy farmers have a point that our cities have grossly mismanaged our wastewater systems. Witness Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch, Havelock North, Auckland, and the rest over the last two years. That the government is proposing to simultaneously highly regulate rural water catchments while at the same time stripping them away from local and regional and indeed national control, simply underscores that farmers have reason to feel that the finger is being unreasonably pointed at them, rather than the powers above them.

New Zealand has allowed cheap imported labour to support dairy farmers for multiple decades. Multigenerational business models have been built on it. It is not unreasonable that farmers should protest that this has just been wiped out. Sure, soft-fingered shiny bums from the city churn their kids through university to run the interweb or whatever, but almost no encouragement whatsoever is given to careers in agriculture. So rely on willing foreign labour they must.

The question about the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill is important, when you cast off the blinkers that presume that the Department of Conservation is any good at its job. Almost no-one gifts land to the DoC estate, because DoC have been too shit at their statutory task for too long. The QE2 Trust now has over 190,000 hectares under protection and rapidly growing, in private hands, and it’s a fair argument whether these transfers have better conservation outcomes than DoC’s vast holdings.

Weirdly, the government has had plenty of recent opportunity to redirect Fonterra – the monolith – to do the landscape protection job that regional councils have failed to do. Fonterra farmers have nearly excluded all dairy cattle from waterways on their farms. It’s as close to 100% as is possible for permanent waterways and regular waterway crossings. Dairy farmers could reasonably argue that their farming practices are indeed directed by markets through the supplier agreements. Three of our biggest core public service entities – MFAT, MAF, and MBIE – are pretty much just subbies to NZ agricultural business, and they know where actual agricultural and business power really resides in this country: it ain’t with Ministers or farmers. It’s in the hands of less than a dozen Big Ag companies. So hey government, stop attacking farmers and start concentrating your attacks on corporate dairy manufacturers and exporters.

Ok a few points against the protesters.

Dairy has been really bad for our environment for a century, and it’s continuing to make this land worse. Doesn’t need Greenpeace to point that out. Ever since GATT we’ve had an explosion of dairy farms and dairy production. You won’t get any sympathy until you admit that fact.

The ute protest is a joke. The first dude in Masterton to get a Ford 150 will pull the girls faster than a flying gumboot. Every tradie knows that ute depreciation and travel costs are a key part of their tax efficiency and actual profitability every year. So every ute comes to an asset end, and buying the next one in whatever fuel use they arrive, is just another reason to keep that tax bill down every year.

It’s really not that hard to imagine a New Zealand where farming can clean up rivers, can tackle the climate crisis, and at the same time make sure every Kiwi has fresh healthy food. Except that there’s no will to have any imagination. Other than Tatua and a few tiny exceptions, farmer-owned dairy companies don’t pressure themselves to do more than churn out low value high bulk products. Farmers need to turn their rage to the corporations who enslave them to being commodity producers, ‘cos that’s where the real power is.

The Emission Trading Scheme is about as accommodating to farmers as it’s ever going to be. Suck it up farmers, like everyone else is. If farmers had an ounce of marketing sense they would have pressured Fonterra to dump its coal-fired milk dryers decades ago.

The political reality right now is that this government is so popular and the opposition so weak that Jacinda Ardern could probably fire a Browning hunting rifle down the mainstreet of Fielding and everyone would come out, nod, and presume she’d finally seen sense and gone into business with Clarke Gayford. There is literally nothing farmers will get out of this protest once the weekend news cycle finishes.

So in conclusion, thank the farmers, then ignore them.

106 comments on “Why Not Support The Farmers? ”

  1. Cricklewood 1

    Agreed, and its Feilding.

    Its easy to scapegoat farmers they are small in number compared to urban dwellers.

    • Robert Guyton 1.1

      I wonder why farmers point the finger at "urban dwellers" – aren't the cities and suburbs where farmers retire-to? And don't farmers also drive those city streets, leaving behind the same hydrocarbon drippings, brake-lining dust, tyre-fragments they accuse the townies of creating? When caught-short at the Warehouse, don't they contribute to the same city sewerage system their townie mates use? The town/country divide is a crock.

    • Maurice 1.2

      Farmers may be small in number – but they surround us all … and feed us.

      Personally, I do not want to upset those who can spit in our food!

      • Robert Guyton 1.2.1

        I don't think farmers would thank you for creating the food-spitter image, Maurice! In any case, doesn't the vast bulk of that food head off-shore for the eating? I see, looming on the horizon and swelling like a cumulonimbus cloud, food-plants, growing where sheep and cows presently squelch. It's coming and this present howl of anguish is preceding the change.

      • Unicus 1.2.2


        They’re a hypocritical pack of wingers and always have been

        They believe it’s their birthright to be molly coddled by the state and under national that happened without question

        Now that their sworn enemies Labour are asking them to cough up a bit of social responsibility they’re jumping onto their million dollar tractors and wittering on about nonsensical “issues” Nobody cares about

        Time to shut the gate on the pricks

        • Peter 1

          Fuck the farmers it,s time we imported cheep food from South America and Asia

          and Europe's food mountain.

          The price of food in this country is a disgrace . Let them export it all.
          Never met a poor farmer yet, my wife’s family are ex
          farmer’s bunch of moaning tory bastards.

          • Ad

            Over 95% of the agricultural produce we generate is exported already. The world already loves our expensive food.

            And thank goodness we do export it. It's those exports that help fund our superannuation, welfare, hospitals, and Police. Without our outstanding farmers (and with the collapse of tourism), we would have an economy that looks something like the Falkland Islands.

            • Brigid

              " It's those exports that help fund our superannuation, welfare, hospitals, and Police."

              Other than those which fund off shore companies of course.

              Our 'outstanding farmers' bloody well should be outstanding considering the subsidies that kept them afloat for damned near a century.

              • Ad

                Everyone's subsidised here.

                If you're over 65 here you're one of the most subsidised people on the planet.

                Arguably the taxpayers doing the most subsidising of the general unwashed, is those farmers themselves: high income, high exporting, low input, low unemployment. And compared to urban centres, their transport and public costs are utterly tiny to the government and to taxpayers:

                • no rubbish collection
                • no public transport
                • often unsealed roads
                • no water or wastewater, and little stormwater management
                • few if any health services
                • distant and low quality schools
                • very distant access to tertiary eduction of any quality
                • very few social amenities compared to 90% of the population which is urban
                • And as we’ve seen over the last month, massive uncertainty in dealing with physical elements that could cut you off and ruin both your home and your livelihood.

                They don’t ask us to be grateful. They ask to be heard.

          • Graeme

            We already do.

            Go for a walk through your local supermarket and seek out where it all comes from. An incredible amount is imported, even if it has a 'trusted' NZ brand on it.

            Supposedly 95% of what we produce is exported, but I'd love to know how much of what we eat is actually grown here.

  2. Robert Guyton 2

    The diesel-powered protest was intended to be a big "in your face" for the townies to make them respect farmers. How much more effective it would have been, had they strapped burning, waste-oil smudge-pots, belching toxic, black smoke as they grumbled through urban and city streets! Lost opportunity by the organisers.

    • Unicus 2.1

      Spit roast a few Bobby calves 🔥

    • Anne 2.2

      Well, they ballsed up the Southern motorway in Auckland for most of yesterday. I imagine there would have been a fair few thousand disgruntled motorists who never made their appointments.

      Not a very good way to garner respect I would have thought.

  3. I Feel Love 3

    Most of do, or don't really care one way or the other (too busy living their own lives), if you want to stop the division go hassle National & Ani O'Brien, & the Groundswell nutters, they're rarking the population up.

  4. GreenBus 4

    I think there is a strong perception that "farmers" don't want to change away from their dirty chemical use because it will mean less profit and there job is hard enough already. Well tough shit, try being a builder and see how easy that is. It is high time the farming industry cleaned up it act and stop using the economic excuses rolled out every time they are challenged. Climate change is important and as the protest confirms, a whole lot of farmers reject that importance in favour of BAU.

  5. Capn Insano 5

    What I often think of first, with farmers protesting changes intended to try and help towards mitigating climate change, is that perhaps some of them can't see that it could help them in the long run. Extreme weather events, droughts etc could only get worse and there's a good chance a quite a few of them will suffer these.

    As far as the ute tax is concerned my first impression was that this was a correction because of all the idiot townies buying them because they're cheap, not for any legitimate trade or business use. A bit like when wankers started driving Pajeros and the resultant plague of Remuera shopping trolleys that irritate on a daily basis.

  6. Dennis Frank 6

    Just another protest group. Interesting that it has formed to rebel against the right-wing establishment, eh? You can deduce that from point 2 here:

    #2. a stronger advocacy voice on behalf of farmers and rural communities. https://groundswellnz.co.nz/

    So the rebel yell (they call it howl) is tacitly directed against the two traditional farmers' reps – Federated Farmers and the National Party.

    Of course they have to cloak it by appearing to direct their protest against the govt, to avoid mass perceptions that they are splitting the right. Once media pros see beneath the cloak, it becomes ephemeral. How long till?

  7. Byd0nz 7

    Time to Nationalize the land and use some scientific methods and principles that are beneficial to planet and people.

    • Ad 7.1

      The New Zealand state through Pamu is already an exemplary farmer, and owns multiple farms. They own 144 farms and cover over 1,000,000 acres of land.


      With their example and that of many others, New Zealand is one of the most advanced farming countries in the world.

  8. Why do they want the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill stopped? So they can freehold their pastoral leases for nix and flick on the title to wealthy foreigners for a tidy tax-free profit. An academic, Ann Brower, explained this rort some years back, including the role of LINZ.

    I'm happy to support farmers who are adaptive and willing to change methods, as all businesses must. Hopefully wool will make a comeback as a natural fibre.

    It's the polluters I object to, and they appear in court almost weekly. Fines for dirty dairying are now just another business cost.

    • bwaghorn 8.1

      It was Clark's labour government that started the tenure review so she could have scrub laden parks as her monument to herself

  9. Jenny How to get there 9

    Some farmers drive down city roads in huge expensive tractors with signs reading, "NO FARMERS NO FOOD NO FUTURE"


    It seems to be a bit of an apocalyptic over reaction to some relatively minor environmental reforms.

    In an equally bizarre alternative universe some city dwellers drive down country roads in flashy expensive Teslas with signs reading, "NO FACTORIES NO TRACTORS NO FUTURE"

    In both universes bemused New Zealanders go about their business.

  10. Graeme 10

    99% of the men that were on the protest (and that would still be well over 90% of the participants) were really only there to protest one thing.

    They can't handle being told what to do by a girl.

    The 'demands' in Groundswell's maifesto are just a cover for that.

    • Robert Guyton 10.1

      How awful! How true!

    • bwaghorn 10.2

      Yip ,when I told the old codger that assumed I would just follow along to the protest he said we were going to that I had better things to do , he called me cindy and walked away.

    • Anne 10.3

      Its Aunty Cindy now as opposed to Aunty Helen.

      You only had to look at the faces to see most of them are rabid red-necks. They remind me of Neanderthal throwbacks.

    • peter sim 10.4

      Graeme, you are so correct. Do you recall the picture of the very intellectual farmer holding up a picture of our PM stating "just a pretty communist"?

      Very informative of the of the farmer mindset. STUPID.

  11. Andre 11

    On the ute tax, I've kinda mused a little bit on the government "hearing the concerns" and exempting absolute bottom of the line poverty-spec single-cab utes bought by actual registered tax-paying businesses. Y'know, actual working vehicles. Or reducing the rate of tax a bit, anyways.

    Making sure they really are basic working vehicles would need to be carefully policed – probably by comparing what the manufacturer sells here to what they sell in other markets. So for instance, if they sell without air-con in overseas markets, but the base model here comes with air-con – no exemption. No power mirrors in overseas markets, but the base model here gets power mirrors – no exemption. Overseas models get 16" steels with 205 R16 tyres, but the base model here gets styled 17" steelies with 265/65 R17s – no exemption. Genuine safety equipment such as airbags and anti-lock brakes required by our local regulations excluded from that principle, of course.

    • bwaghorn 11.1

      Tell me did the van that your little garden group bludged come as the most basic one with no power steering or ac?

      • Andre 11.1.1

        Methinks you're mistaking me for Robert Guyton.

        Nevertheless, my old LandRover I still drive semi-regularly when I need to haul a big load does not have A/C. It does have power steering, but I'm seriously thinking of swapping it for a manual steering box coz' I'm sick of fixing leaks. I learned to drive in a Series 2, so I know what I'd be up for if I ever did it.

        With my little nana's shopping trolley (that my kid now drives), when I pulled the engine out to do the clutch, I had to get the A/C degassed properly. Never reinstated it, so that didn't have A/C for the 7 years I drove it.

    • Graeme 11.2

      That sort of exemption may negate the intent of the scheme with fleet buyers who would be buying the bare bones ICE version anyway.

      Probably a place for a full or partial exemption where the buyer can prove that there isn't a lower emission vehicle that can do the job, and a genuine need for that vehicle. Although I do't think it will be long before there's EVs that are more capable off road than a Hilux or Landcruiser.

  12. John G 12

    I'm not sure that we need to be that grateful to farmers generally. Yes, they are very valuable to our economy, but to think they are doing it for any other reason than self interest is somewhat naive.

  13. barry 13

    Don't ignore the farmers, but ask them what they are doing to solve their own problems.

    To talk about labour for one: It is an indictment on the industry that they are looking overseas for skills. This is not unique to farming, but SURELY nobody knows more about farming than NZers. They should have been training locals and offering positions that are attractive to people. Instead they expect the government to solve their problems, by training people in polytechnics, and when that can't get enough people fast enough, by opening up the border.

    Yes, previous governments have encouraged this business model, but you can't complain about government interference one minute, and then go cap in hand the next.

    • Molly 13.1

      I was speaking to my aunt on the weekend who retired after decades of orchard and vineyard growing. Friends who are still growing were complaining about the inability of NZers to take what is offered. I pointed out that housing access and costs meant that NZers often had to maintain rents and housing costs that overseas workers did not incur and so the monetary benefit was often very low, if not in the negative when all translocation costs were taken into account.

      Importing workers as a profit making method has worked for so long, that it seems impossible for some to consider alternatives.

      • greywarshark 13.1.1

        Molly good sense as usual. That accommodation thing would be important – have to hold on to what you have, then there is travel and maintaining family duties so back and forth. Moaning should become a key subject for students in NZ, something we are good at, perhaps we could compete internationally.

        Or perhaps gurning would be a new line to practice?

  14. Morrissey 14

    In 1985 a similar protest march of these right wing farmers in Wellington was greeted by demonstrators shouting "Go back to your ploughs, bludgers!"

    • bwaghorn 14.1

      Never picked you as a rogernome!

      • Morrissey 14.1.1

        I've had many opprobrious epithets hurled at me on this site, but that's not been one of them. No, I'm not, and never have been, a Rogernome—and, to be fair, the people counterprotesting against those farmers in 1985 were probably not Rogernomes either. Most people did not cotton on to what Douglas, Bassett, Prebble, and the rest of that gang was doing until it was too late.

  15. Patricia Bremner 15

    If the farmers had congregated at points throughout the country without huge vehicles, had put up coherent arguments and speeches, we may have related more. The blatant vehicle use was all about the tax issue.

    Last time it was the "Fart tax" Progress?? Not much.

  16. Whoever it was that gave themselves the label "Groundswell" had obviously not done a great deal of research on that particular word. They might be a little startled to find that Groundswell in the UK is all about regenerative farming practices, conservation and climate change mitigation! https://groundswellag.com/

  17. Stuart Munro 17

    I expect it's an error to assume that the protesting farmers are representative of the larger collective "farmers" – for all that a number of government policies surely irritate many of that larger group.

    Sad though, to see resistance to modest change instead of the leadership which the rural community feels is its natural role. I'd love to see actual community developed solutions to emissions and water quality, rather than the products of faceless bureaucrats with no skin in the game.

  18. bwaghorn 18

    No body actually needs dairy , babies mothers have all the milk a human ever needs, if the dumb fuckers down south had stuck to sheep n beef land would still be affordable they would enjoy there farming much more and they would be riding the golden times meat products are having at the moment, .

    That being said they hate labour mainly because of the 80 s so never vote for them so labour can just ignore them .

    • Andre 18.1

      You can pry the cheese out my cold dead jaws.

      But as far as I'm concerned, the ingredients don't have to come from the back end of a cow immediately downhill of the sewage outlets. I'd be happier if they come from engineered micro-organisms in a vat.

      • Ad 18.1.1

        I still have to go to the Dutch Shop in Henderson to get Old Aged Amsterdam.

        After 160 years of making cheese here, mostly we made Mild.

    • Ad 18.2

      The sheep industry is plummeting. No one is buying our course wool. The mills and processors have closed down.

      Dairy has led an agricultural boom in Southland for several decades now.

      The really integrated dairy companies are also the most profitable: nothing at all is wasted.

      Tatua is my favourite for this. They are a small company, but in one industrial precinct they also have a plant for using the skins. They also make meat pies.

      And then there's the dairy stuff: hydrolysates, microbial nutrition, cream in a can, caseinates, whey protein, etc, all the really expensive and high value lines.

      All of this off just a few suppliers.


      Most DairyNZ advocacy concentrates on export market competition, pastoral research, herd sizes, sustainability, employment, etc.

      But companies like Tatua (regrettably few) go deep into the value chain to higher sustained profitability. If only we had more that did so.

      • bwaghorn 18.2.1

        Course Wools on the comeback as a feed product for biodegradable products.

        • Ad

          That has got to be the most miserable use for a sheep that I've heard of.

          From an animal ethics pints of view, what is the point of growing tens of thousands of large animals to be harvested for other large animals which in turn gets turned into about 90% waste and 10% on humans.

          • Andre

            And that's without considering that growing a kilo of wool emits about a kilo of methane. Far far more emissions than any other common fibre product.

            • bwaghorn

              Are they biodegradable?

              • Andre

                Some alternatives are. But they generally come with other environmental problems. As well as another couple of kilos of CO2 emissions per kilo of fibre if they do biodegrade. So sequestering in a landfill is probably a better end-of-life disposal option.

                Or better yet, with plastic fibre clothes there's at least the option of recycling into new products for a circular economy. For some fibre types, anyways. Polyester being particularly suited to recycling.

                • Ad

                  We have woollen insulation in our Titirangi house. Also a low-value use for the wool. Also not that easy to source. Fletchers have the market largely sewn up.

                  • Andre

                    Yeah, a couple of new builds in my family went out of their way to find and paid over the odds for wool insulation. I thought it was a great idea too until I twigged to the huge emissions problem involved in growing wool. That insight was only a couple of years ago.

                    Now I'm of the view that glass or rock fibre insulation is probably environmentally friendliest. Admittedly without a huge amount of research really digging into all the environmental costs involved in all the viable alternatives.

  19. McFlock 19

    If they're progressively degrading the land and waterways, they're not farming sustainably.

    I don't want farmers to stop farming. I want them to farm in a manner the land and waterways can handle (and I'd also like urban centres to sort out their water discharges, too).

    One of the better examples is the wine industry in central otago. Literally looking at the land and going "what is best suited to grow here" based on global experience.

    But no. Some of our farmers would prefer to stack cows in crates and force feed them while dumping their shit straight into the river, if they could get away with it.

    • bwaghorn 19.1

      I took a train ride once ,picton to ch ch ,the conductor talk host guy reckoned that they had planted so many posts for grapes to grow on that arsenic leaching was polluting the ground water.

      • McFlock 19.1.1

        ouch. fair call.

      • Ad 19.1.2

        If that were really true, we would have seen widespread arsenic poisoning of groundwater right across New Zealand from hundreds of millions of fence posts put in for sheep, beef, and horticulture over the last 120 years – and across the whole of the countryside.

        Compared to our major waterway and artesial contamination issues, this doesn't seem a major.

        • bwaghorn

          100% anicdata on my part, I would point out though on a posts per hectare basis wineries would be massively higher than farms

        • Graeme

          The arsenic leaching from grape posts is quite localised but is within the root zone of the vines. The arsenic shows up in the wine and in some soil types starts to become a problem.

          In Central it's an issue because of the highish arsenic levels in the soil, so tanalised posts are being replaced with steel. Anything organic, or aspiring to be, has been steel for 10 years.

          Disposal of the old posts is a major issue. There's also a huge breakage loss of vineyard posts.

          • bwaghorn

            One wonders why instead of going steel we dont use trees similar the aussie iron barks? And our own totara, the right type of totara will last 50 plus years here in the wet north island so I'm picking longer in the dry central south.

              • Ad

                Those guys are great and we use them at work.

                Adds to the bid team's brownie points as well.

                • Andre

                  It's a helluva good way to re-use all that plastic packaging that's otherwise such a nightmare and can't otherwise be recycled. Bale wraps, chemicals containers …

                • Graeme

                  I'm not that sure about them. Have used a few and the plastic tears when you drive them in rocky ground, negating the wrapping. also if you can't get them in far enough and have to cut the top off, but then the bottom is munted anyway because you've driven it into a rock.

                  It's not doing away with the poison, just putting it in a pretty wrapper

            • pat

              growth times. price and availability I suspect….too much of the hardwood already gone and that which remains is largely protected (much to the chagrin of West Coasters)

              • Graeme

                Treated pine has a lot going for it in usability for fencing, drives into the ground well and takes and holds staples well. Eucalypts can be interesting to drive and then getting staples in can be challenging. Then they dry and split, spitting the staple out, although pine does that too.

                Also become a single use plantation, whereas pine is part of a wider forestry operation.

                • pat

                  Not to mention lighter to handle

                  • Graeme

                    Don't know about that, I was lifting some above my head last week and I'm sure the birds were still tweeting in them. Fresh, wet pine posts can be bloody heavy. And toxic, gloves and goggles, and something to wash your hands and face before lunch or you pay for it.

          • Ad

            Finally I have the answer for all those clear mineral notes in the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Arsenic.

            • Graeme

              A lot of the older Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc blocks had big trenches dug at the bottom of the rows where the old Muller vines and trellis was pushed during the conversion. Mindnumbing days on a dozer pushing it all into the trench so they could start again. So there's a large amount buried in Marlborough.

              Not sure how much of a problem it is in the wine though, it is down here because of the quite high natural arsenic levels in the glacial till and underlying schist.

              The elevated arsenic level was enough that growers had to change their methods so that they could continue to sell their wine in some markets. So the Groundswell NZ people should beware, similar changes will be required in other sectors to maintain market access. In this instance the change was voluntary but in others regulation may or will be necessary.

  20. gsays 20

    Someone yesterday, weka I think, pointed out the farmers are a mirror for society.

    If you are using supermarkets then you have no right to point and sneer at farmers or at least acknowledge your profound hypocrisy.

    • weka 20.1

      I live in the country and know that the group known as farmers covers a wide range of people and beliefs. The thing that annoyed me yesterday (hence the flamingo post) was seeing lefties having a go at the protesting farmers, because the farmers won't change to save the climate, but most of those lefties won't either, not at the level that will make the difference.

      Let's criticise industrial farming. But we might want to note the mote in our own eyes.

    • Ad 20.2

      If the protest really simply mirrored the rest of New Zealand society, you would have indeed seen a great and rumbling "groundswell" of support from the rest of the country. We didn't.

      Instead, supermarket shelves are diversifying into smaller and smaller and more expensive niche products such as oat, soy and almond milks, or the Lewis Road Creamery series, or indeed Fonterra's own brands of organic certified milks.

      There are also super-niche retailers like Huckleberry and Chantal, where you can get a lire of milk for around $7 or even $8. Most New Zealanders go straight to Anchor and Standard and DairyDale from the two dominant supermarket chains.

      No one is a hypocrite for using a supermarket. Indeed it's possible to use a supermarket and to protest at the same time.

      Most of this area of change isn't led by protest: it's led, as beer has been, by gradual increased category change on the supermarket shelf.

      • gsays 20.2.1

        The commonality between farmer's practices and wider society is 'convenience is king' and TINA.

        The need for gourmet this and out-of-season-that, while ignoring the diesel miles embedded into the supermarket supply chain, involves a large eye mote, (thanks weka) or very rubbery principles.

        Like dropping phosphates and nitrogen on the paddock for lush grass growth while ignoring soil and waterway health, the supply of nice-to-haves available 16 hours a day is not sustainable.

        The mention of craft beer makes me wonder if we would be better off if all alcohol were to be removed from supermarket shelves. Buying direct from the brewer gets more money into the appropriate hands and helps discover new oulets. Shout-out to Roots in Wanganui.

        "No one is a hypocrite for using a supermarket. Indeed it's possible to use a supermarket and to protest at the same time." I agree, so long as the ideals that cause you to sneer at farmers, are left in the cupboard where you used to keep your plastic bags.

        Edit, the other reason for more of us not joining the farmers protest is othering, far easier to point at ‘them’ rather than acknowledge ‘we’ are also part of the problem ie supermarket patronage.

        • Ad

          I'm not sure why supermarket patronage stops you from protesting.

          It's a perfectionist trap of idealism leading to quietism.

          Whereas when you buy off the shelf, the more gourmet you go, the more confidence you have in knowing you have achieved greater perfection in your purchase due not only to the certifier labels and their programmes, but also because the suppliers are experts who know that they command that very high price through proving exactly that degree of precision in water use, food miles, sustainability, labour practices, animal testing, seasonal variation, and all the rest. And you get to specifically reward the companies who do that.

          So in that sense, when choose the right product line you teach farmers the right way. The New Zealand agricultural economy is increasingly based on precisely this economic pattern.

  21. Ben B 21

    Serious question. Why not farm soy rather than dairy?

    It feeds the world much better than dairy. Easier on health, groundwater, carbon, you name it. I'm eating some as we speak. The missus makes natto and she has a very hard time procuring soy, especially NZ grown GMO free.

    Dairy is just wasteful, and surplus to requirements, and it obviously grows a few very questionable attitudes.

    • Jenny how to get there 21.1

      Ben B

      17 July 2021 at 9:25 pm

      Serious question. Why not farm soy rather than dairy?….

      Now that is a very good question.

      What if instead of converting the traditional cropping lands on the Canterbury Plains into intensive dairying operations, (with all the huge inputs and pollution that entails). We planted those fields in soy?

      Off the top of my head I can think of a few benefits.

      Less polllution of the South Island waterways.

      Less climate damaging methane emitssions.

      Conversion of the existing dairying plants to process soy would preserve jobs.

      These dairyplants could use the left over dry fodder to burn in their boilers instead of coal. Another plus for the climate.

      Less virgin rainforest in Brazil will need to razed to feed the global demand for soy.
      A very major plus for the environment, the climate and bio-diversity.


    • Ad 21.2

      There are two quick answers to low soy growth or indeed any other arable crop here.

      The first is that there's been a big decline in arable farming in Southland, Otago, Canterbury and Manawatu-Wanganui as a consequence of the falling profitability of sheep farming through the 1990s and the profitability of dairy farming. This has been assisted by large community irrigation schemes.

      Areas which are warmer and have good soils have been converted to intensive horticulture such as Kiwifruit and apples. Both of those have had intensive support from Crown Research Institutes for multiple decades.

      Other flattish but marginal lands have been converted to vineyards and hops, which have also been highly profitable and have also enjoyed strong sectoral, industrial and research support.

      They've been researching whether soya beans could work here since the 1960s, with little success.


      Occasionally a new farmer will try out soya beans in Northland, but it never amounts to much. Generally soy is best left to the international large scale commodity growers.

      • Ben B 21.2.1

        Thanks, this actually makes sense. Gotta wonder though if e.g. Canterbury could be a large scale commodity soy grower, rather than a large scale commodity dairy grower…

    • bwaghorn 21.3

      One big weather event can wipe a crop farmers years income out.

      Livestock farmers can just up the supplement feeding for a bit and ride it out, the exception is massive drought or your farm gets wiped by a flood.

  22. Brendan Waugh 22

    I note that back in the 4th Labour government the farmers were unhappy about the government ending subsidies.

    Then I note that back in the Clark Government the farmers were unhappy and drove "Myrtle" up to Parliment.

    And third time Lucky? We see protests again with the Jacinda Government.

    Do I see a trend?

    • Ad 22.1

      If it had been more than a minority we would have seen al that big Labour caucus turnout at the 2021 June Field Days turn into conflict, aggro, and subsequent media bunfight.

      Nothing happened.

  23. Jenny how to get there 23

    The ghosts of Massey's Cossacks

    Why were all these tails wagging the farm dogs through our towns and cities again?

    Posted by EXHALANTBLOG on JULY 17, 2021

    ……Farmer Seymour, resplendent in gumboots and down with the “protesters” raging against “That Comy Bitch”.

    ….. Then came the anti-vaxxers, dog whistling, outright racists, faux libertarian “freedom fighters” and “anti-Government” folk…..

    Who, all, as it happens, draw upon some deep seated animosity among some rural people (and their suburban and political compatriots) to anything remotely to the left of the National Party, no matter how banal…..


    • Ad 23.1

      Exhalant should inhale for a bit.

      It's the first protest of any note that this government has encountered. It's not Massey's Cossacks FFS.

      They came in their tractors, their dogs barked in unison for the tv news, they left.

      • Incognito 23.1.1

        As usual, Jenny butchered a long highly nuanced critical analysis by an excellent NZ blogger to a few highly selective part-quotes ripped out of their context. It was Jenny who volunteered Massey's Cossacks, not exhALANt, FFS.

        The farmers had their field day, showing off their toys, and now we can get on with life again. Next.

        • Ad

          Don't think for a moment the protesting farmers are finished. It would now take little for regional mayors to join them against the water reforms – they just need to conflate water governance with stormwater quality – not too big a river to jump.

          • Graeme

            Except one of the rural sector's points is that municipalities are as big a polluter and abuser of fresh water as farmers. They have a valid case.

            The aim of the 3 Waters reform is to take control of 3 waters from Councils and vest it in pan-regional entities that will have the clout to fix these problems. Surely that's what farmers want.

            Councils find it hard to get ahead of water issues because no-one gets elected to local government saying they are going to increase rates and dig up the streets up for the next 5 – 10 years. The Citizens and Ratepayers lobby, (effectively the National Party) has a lot to answer for with the poor condition our municipal infrastructure.

            It's the obvious next stage of water reform that will be stuffing up their sleep. Taking natural water quality and allocation administration off the Regional Councils and giving that to Taumata Arowai. Now that'll rip their nighties somewhat…

            • Ad

              I well remember Max Bradford going around quoting all kinds of benefits once all powers from electricity reforms were taken away from local control.

              Farmers in this country have good memories, and have good reason to be skeptical.

              I agree that the water reforms are necessary. But there's politics to be made out of this from Dairy NZ, the irrigation companies, Federated Farmers and the Cadogan brothers, and maybe even National if they can generate some political skill from somewhere.

              • Graeme

                I can see the lot of them making complete racist hypocrites of them selves over this.

                With some of the water schemes the Cadogan bros have in their patches I'm surprised they aren't dropping the respective bundles in Mania Mahuta's lap as quickly as they can. Let the government entity make every household on a small scheme fork out for a UV plant, that's would be fun for a small rural council.

              • Graeme

                Clutha District Council wastewater woes…


                Pretty hard for that Council to argue they are doing it fine, although there’s a couple of layers there with the contracting to another Council’s contracting entity.

                3 Waters will be fucking over the contracting sector as well, with fairly large liabilities on contractors and their staff under the Water Services Bill, although the current Health Act and RMA are pretty solid, if they can prosecute. Strange that elected representatives are exempt from lability under the WSB?

          • Graeme

            Definitely not the end of it either, this was too well organised, and at a National level to be a flash in the pan.

            Will all depend on what the polling does.

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