Lobby groups should not be taxpayer funded

October 1st, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

Taxpayers have forked out over $228,000 to lobby group Federated Farmers since 2009, much to the surprise of its president William Rolleston.

Dr Rolleston has also refused to say whether corporate donations are part of the $7.45 million the federation has received in unspecified “other revenue” since 2008.

When NBR ONLINE informed Dr Rolleston that the Ministry for Primary Industries and its predecessors have paid about $228,000 to the federation over the past five years he replied, “Gosh, really? What have they paid it for?”

A very good question. I’m against taxpayer funding of lobby groups – including the ones I often agree with.

The Taxpayers Union has said:

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on Federated Farmers to make a firm commitment to reject any future Government funding, after it was revealed that the lobby group had received over $200,000 of payments in recent years.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says:
“Federated Farmers need to be weaned off taxpayer funding .”

“Government agencies should not be handing over taxpayers’ money to lobby groups and pet causes. Here a group that speaks for one of our largest industries is on the take from the Government’s ‘Sustainable Farming Fund’.”

“How can a lobby group such as Fed Farmers remain credible and independent, when it’s receiving taxpayer funded top ups?”

You can’t argue for smaller Government, when you put your hand out for taxpayer funding.

Wills on Irrigation

May 15th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Bruce Wills writes in the Herald:

Labour’s Shadow Minister of Finance David Parker looked the part in delivering his party’s monetary policy. I was impressed and it lasted until Mr Parker’s sequel, which read like Labour was targeting farmers as if we are ducks.

A recent jaundiced attack upon irrigation has me questioning if the party gets it. This speech reads as an electoral game plan designed to demonise a minority of the population while amplifying prejudices and preconceptions about what we do.

Labour’s political calculus is cynical because “farming equals bad water” is dog-whistle politics. 

Evil evil farmers.

Labour’s anti-irrigation stance is a flip-flop from when Jim Anderton was Agriculture Minister. It also contradicts Labour’s desire to enact the world’s most repressive emissions trading scheme.

Winding up the Crown irrigation company not only flies in the face of regional economic development but regional climate adaptation. Are memories so short that we have forgotten adaptation was a key criticism of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change?

According to the panel, Hawkes Bay can expect double or even triple the time spent in drought by 2040. Adaptation means new pastures and technologies, but fundamentally, it means storing rainwater. Residents in towns and cities do not wait for rain before taking a shower.

While water is vital to farming, without stored water some of our rivers increasingly will run lower and warmer. This is a consequence of less rainfall in a changing climate. It will also impact on farming and the environment equally.

So why is Labour so anti-irrigation?

The most distressing thing about dog-whistle politics is that it denies that farmers live where we farm.

It is a naked attempt to make farmers a breed apart. It is unreconstructed class warfare.

So the capitalists are no longer the enemy of the working class – it is the farmers!

Fed Farmers lashes Greens

June 5th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Fed Farmers have said:

Federated Farmers Taranaki is concerned the Green Party’s scaremongering over rehabilitated landfarms is putting at risk New Zealand’s number one merchandise export.

“Politicians and political parties have a higher duty when it comes to what they say or do,” says Harvey Leach, Federated Farmers Taranaki provincial president.

“The Green Party media release I saw is like going into a packed theatre and yelling fire. I think we are hitting new lows in politics when the sum total of a political party’s research effort is a television news segment.”

We see this scaremongering all too often.

“Unlike that party, Federated Farmers has asked questions and knows there is a double testing regime in place for rock cuttings and clays.”

“Taranaki Regional Council is incredibly rigorous in what it does. The Council tests ground conditions to ensure things are as they should be. Fonterra further tests for contaminants when it collects milk to ensure integrity of the entire milk supply chain.”

“The science is clear; there is no issue here. Of course you don’t want the truth to get in the way of a bad story.”

The anti-science party strikes again.

“Politicians misrepresenting the truth is low-ball stuff.  They are calling into question the integrity of a major regional council which is the most experienced we have in dealing with oil and gas.”

“It also puts at risk our $12 billion dairy export industry by questioning the integrity of our major dairy exporters. We are being ankle-tapped by politicians who get paid by our hard work and that of other hard working kiwis.  We deserve much better.”

“Farmers will be predictably disappointed in the Green Party because they seem willing to throw decent hard working people under a bus to get a cheap headline.  It is nasty politics spun at its worst,” Mr Leach concluded. 

Strong words. But they are the ones who suffer from the scaremongering.

Also Stuff reports:

The Green Party is calling on Fonterra to stop taking milk from Taranaki landfarms where oil and fracking waste has been spread and covered in Taranaki.

“People don’t want to drink milk from cows grazed on pasture with petroleum industry waste beneath it,” Green Party Co-leader Russel Norman said.

But regional council spokesman Gary Bedford said the claims made in the TV3 coverage appeared to be either confused or deliberately misleading.

“I’m not sure what technical competence Russel Norman has to challenge agricultural guidelines and say they are not up to it.”

He said landfarms were quarantined and then underwent extensive testing before cattle were put back on them to graze for milking.

Cattle were never grazed on a landfarm that was still in use, he said.

I can answer that question. Dr Norman has a PhD. His PhD was on the Alliance Party.

Fed Farmers say no to printing money

October 10th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Greens claim their printing money proposal (which Labour supports, so long as the RB decides to do it, not the Govt) is to benefit exporters.

Well the group that represents more exporters in NZ than any other, Federated Farmers, have said they think the proposal is lunacy.

3 News reports:

The country’s biggest export sector is strongly opposed to the Green Party’s suggestion that the Government should print money to bring down the value of the dollar.

The agricultural sector sells most of its products overseas and Federated Farmers says printing money, known as quantitative easing, would be “incredibly bad” for New Zealand. …

The Government has rejected the idea and Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills says it would “set off an inflationary bomb that risks returning New Zealand to the dark days of double-digit interest rates”.

Mr Wills says quantitative easing should be a “break glass in case of fire” policy option.

“New Zealand is nowhere near such desperate measures because our official cash rate is 2.5 percent versus 0.5 percent in the United Kingdom, 0.25 percent in the United States and 0.10 percent in Japan.”

This is what is so bizarre about the Greens policy. Those countries which are doing QE are not doing it because they want to. They are doing it as a last resort as they can not lower their cash rate any lower.

The Greens would have New Zealand as pretty much the only developed country in the world to print money and cause inflation, as a preference rather than a last resort.

The Government and Fonterra

January 25th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Danya Levy and Andrea Fox at Stuff report:

Prime Minister John Key says proposed changes in the diary industry may result in cheaper milk and will give consumers confidence they are “not getting ripped off” by Fonterra.

Key this morning rejected claims by farmers that plans to force the dairy giant to provide five per cent of its raw milk to independent producers, up from three per cent, was sending profits offshore by assisting largely foreign-owned New Zealand-based exporters which compete with Fonterra.

Labour’s primary industry spokesman Damien O’Connor has voiced similar concerns. …

Key today said proposed provisions to phase out well-established competitors would alleviate concerns about overseas-owned companies profiting at Fonterra’s expense.

It was in Fonterra’s interest to have competition in the market.

“It’s very important that we have transparency because Fonterra find themselves primarily in a monopoly position, they control about 95 per cent of raw milk production in New Zealand,” he told TV3’s Firstline programme. …

Fonterra chairman Sir Henry van der Heyden has said it is valid for Fonterra to assist domestic market suppliers with milk, but requiring Fonterra to supply overseas-owned competitors “defied logic”.

The extra milk obligation would cost Fonterra $200 million over three years alone, he said. …

Dairy farmer James Houghton, a Fonterra supplier and president of Waikato Federated Farmers, said if Fonterra lost money, farmers’ payouts would be affected.

“I believe it is the Government wanting to control an industry it doesn’t need to control,” he said. “The more rules and regulations, the more control it has.

Hmmn, an interesting situation. On one side you have the Government and on the other side you have Fonterra and Federated Farmers, with some opportunistic backing by Labour. So is the Government doing the right thing or not?

Former Green MP Sue Kedgley, who was a member of the parliamentary select committee looking into milk pricing last year, said the proposals were good steps.

Well that solves it for me. The Government must be wrong!

Federated Farmers

June 20th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Jon Morgan at Stuff reports:

Four candidates are seeking the presidency of Federated Farmers for the first time in its 66-year existence.

It is the first contested election since 1999, when Alistair Polson held off two challengers.

It will be voted on by the 40 delegates at the national conference in Rotorua on July 1.

The candidates are vice-president Don Aubrey, the man he ousted as vice-president in 2009, Frank Brenmuhl, and the retiring chairmen of the dairy and meat and fibre sections, Lachlan McKenzie and Bruce Wills.

They seek to replace Southland farmer Don Nicolson, retiring after a three-year term.

It will be interesting to see who wins. I suspect whomever it is, they’ll be hard pushed to match Don’s profile.

The contested election reminds me of Phil Goff’s comments last week, as reported in the Waikato Times:

Labour leader Phil Goff has angered industry leaders at the National Agricultural Fieldays by suggesting that Federated Farmers were considered the National Party in gumboots.

The comment was in response to being asked how important the agricultural vote was to Labour, in election year, during his Fieldays visit yesterday.

“In financial terms agriculture is hugely important, in political terms someone once said that Federated Farmers is the National Party in gumboots, it’s always been that way and we have to accept that,” Mr Goff told Waikato Times.

However that comment hasn’t gone down well with Federated Farmers dairy chairman Lachlan McKenzie who said the organisation was staunchly apolitical.

 A silly comment by Goff. Certainly farmers tend to be more conservative in their political tendencies than others, but that is not at all the same as being National in gumboots. Not all farmers think alike.

Federated Farmers have actually had a pretty tense relationship with the National -led Government. Anyone who thinks they are akin to unions and Labour do not know what they are talking about.

Jeanette on Factory Farms

December 23rd, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Jeanette responds to Federated Farmers:

Federated Farmers thinks Green co-leader Dr Russel Norman and I have different opinions on herd homes and factory farms.

However, Russel and I both have visited a herd home and have the same opinion on their benefits. We both oppose the factory farming proposals in the Mackenzie Country.

Herd homes are open, light and airy and the cows are free to move around. They are not used 24/7. Even in filthy weather the cows are outside for at least the four hours it takes them to eat their daily ration of fresh grass.

Then they are off the paddock, protecting the soil from pugging in wet weather and sheltering in the herd home where they have a ration of hay or silage to eat at will. When the weather is fine and the soil reasonably dry, the cows are outside all the time. Using a herd home as part of a pastoral farm results in much less nitrous oxide emissions from the wet soil. …

The factory farms being applied for in the Mackenzie Basin are the opposite. The cows will be indoors 24 hours a day for eight months, perhaps in cubicles most of the time. All feed will be brought to them, so it will require additional energy to produce and transport.

The Mackenzie Basin is a place where for much of the year no feed can be grown locally and the weather is inhospitable for cows.

On Twitter, Federated Farmers argues that it is the “principal” (I think they mean principle) that matters, not the scale. They’re wrong: it’s both.

I am amused that Jeanette responds to a tweet on Twitter with a column in the NZ Herald!

Environmentally, scale can be everything. 180 cows might have a manageable impact on water quality, but 18,000 cows is a different ball-game. It is precisely the scale of dairying in New Zealand – the sheer numbers of cows, the intensity of stocking rates, and the resulting effluent and emissions – that is turning what used to be seen as a “clean green” wholesome industry into a major polluter.

It’s also the principle. Farming outdoor cows (that occasionally go indoors) is fundamentally different to a factory of indoor cows (that occasionally go outdoors). Animal welfare is an issue of principle, not scale – farm animals should live meaningful lives on farms, not in factories.

We agree with Fonterra and Forest & Bird that intensive dairying is completely unsuitable in the fragile Mackenzie Country. We also agree with the Prime Minister that factory farming threatens to undermine our competitive advantage from our grass-fed, World SPCA-approved, clean and green dairy farming. We agree with the Otago tourism and residents’ organisations that have called factory farming in the Mackenzie ‘insanity’. It’s a recipe for disaster. The principle is all wrong and the scale makes it worse still.

The debate continues!

Nicholson quotes Jeanette

December 22nd, 2009 at 8:54 am by David Farrar

Fed Farmers President Don Nicholson says the Mackenzie Basin dairy farming application should be given a fair hearing under the RMA. He notes:

Putting the location aspect aside as something for the commissioners, is “loose housing” a terrible corruption of the New Zealand “brand”, as Dr Russel Norman MP, the Green Party co-leader makes it out to be? Not according to his colleague, Jeanette Fitzsimons MP. His former Green Party co-leader was so impressed when she saw a “herd home” in action, that Ms Fitzsimons entered the following words on her website about good farming stories: “I must admit I was prejudiced about herd homes before I saw this one – NZ is known for grazing its animals outside all year round – surely we don’t want to coop them up in barns away from the light and the sun and the fresh grass? However now I’m a complete convert. The high roof is translucent and lets in lots of light. The overhanging sides are open so there is air movement through but rain and cold winds are kept out. The cows are free to move around, and there is fresh hay or silage under the eaves around the outside edges of the barn for them to feed at will. If I had any doubts about the animal welfare side of things, it was dispelled when I saw them waiting in the race to get back in again out of the rain.”

Don also notes the proposal is for 18,000 cows over 16 separate farms – not in one gargantuan farm.

Cubicle Dairy Farming

December 9th, 2009 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald has details of what is actually proposed:

However, a director of one of the companies behind the proposals says critics who call it “factory farming” have got it all wrong.

Richard Peacocke was reluctant to be interviewed while involved in environmental hearings related to the applications. However in statements, he said: “Factory farming implies that stock are unduly restricted.

“Each cow will have its own cubicle to stand, sit and sleep. The floor of the cubicle is a thick rubber pad and the cows are free to enter and leave the cubicles at will and wander around the balance of the shed and feed as they require.

“There will be clear roof panels to allow sun and light to enter. Additionally the cows will be free to wander out onto a large open air holding yard during fine weather and stand or sit in the sun.”

Mr Peacocke said the effluent would be collected and stored, with liquid waste watered down and spread on pasture at “very low rates”.

The proposal is for 18,000 cows that will live within the stables (including yard) for eight months a year.

I suspect this is an issue similar to battery hen farming. Around 80% of people will say they don’t like it and would be happy to pay more for free-range egss. But in reality free-range only has 10% of the market.

The bigger concern is if it could undermine the overall NZ dairy brand. This is why Fonterra is against.

Federated Farmers are supportive though, and say this model of farming s more environmentally friendly. I’d be interested in the details of that claim.

UPDATE: Press editorial has some details:

From an environmental point of view, the proposal has a lot to recommend it. Rather than having herds roaming free and leaving effluent to flow where it will, with the risk of pollution to waterways and aquifers, it would, while the cows were under cover at least, be collected for more orderly disposal. While the details of that disposal would have to be scrutinised closely, that is almost certain to be less damaging to the environment.

Fed Farmers on Greenpeace

September 17th, 2009 at 6:19 am by David Farrar

I love a farmer who calls it as they see it. The Dom Post reports:

Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson called the protest “economic treason”. “It’s a despicable new tactic that has Greenpeace’s loathing of farming written all over that ship.

“I fully respect the freedom of Greenpeace to protest legally but they have crossed the line by interfering with legal commerce and free navigation on the high seas.

“That’s why the police need to take this act of piracy, or sea-robbery, very seriously and prosecute those activists to the full extent of the law.”

Piracy is in fact still a crime in New Zealand. It carries a maximum sentence of 14 years. Attempted piracy is 10 years and accessory to piracy seven years.

Fed Farmers on ETS

May 8th, 2009 at 10:11 am by David Farrar

The Fed Farmers VP has an op ed in the Dom Post:

Today, we can ill afford to further weaken the economy unless we wish to replace recession with depression. Research by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research shows that the ETS could lead to 22,000 job losses.

The Agriculture and Forestry Ministry says the ETS will progressively reduce farm profitability and viability by 61.6 per cent for the average dairy farm and 80.3 per cent for the average sheep and beef farm. That is an economic implosion.

All of this will be taken from a sector that has outperformed the rest of the economy for 25 of the past 27 years.

The ETS over-reaches itself by putting a price of carbon on all emissions, whereas Kyoto requires New Zealand to account only for emissions above 1990 levels. We don’t need an ETS to meet our Kyoto obligations.

For better or worse we are in Kyoto. But whether a carbon tax, an ETS or simply just paying our liability (if we even have one) is the best option is far from clear. And if we have an ETS, will we be the only country in the world to include agriculture?

Worse, the ETS takes us where no other country has gone and applies a price of carbon to emissions arising from food production. It also prevents productive land being used for farming if it has trees on it. Forests are best planted on marginal land unsuited to food production, so we need pragmatism not dogmatism.

Therefore, we must ask, where is the global upside if New Zealand artificially throttles back its agricultural production, allowing less efficient producers to fill the void?

And that is why any replacement to Kyoto, must include all emitting countries. Otherwise we will damage our economy and damage the environment more.

But before anyone accuses Federated Farmers of being reactionary, climate change is real. There is no doubt that 6.8 billion human beings affect the environment and humanity grows at the rate of 80 million new mouths each year.

So, if we abandon the ETS, what could be done to get New Zealand through to 2012 when the Kyoto protocol lapses?

Given carbon is cheap right now, the Government could purchase Kyoto emissions units to put in the bank, giving us the means to meet our liabilities through to 2012.

A low-level carbon charge could be introduced and set at a rate that recovers just enough revenue to account for any emissions deficit.

The Government could fund the planting of lots of trees to develop new forestry sinks and jobs. Instead of following the international pack, New Zealand could lead it by pushing for each country to allocate a percentage of GDP toward climate change initiatives.

It is interesting that even Australia has delayed its ETS by a year.

Denmark, one of Europe’s greenest countries, considered a tax on its farming sector in February but quickly realised what folly this was and excluded the primary production of food from its Kyoto response in March. Denmark correctly saw there was no point in sacrificing its farmers when less efficient countries would only produce more.

In Denmark, agriculture accounts for about 19 per cent of all exports; in New Zealand, it’s a jaw- dropping 64 per cent. So why should we care if New Zealand agricultural emissions actually increase? Our farmers generate enough food to feed at least 1 per cent of humanity but are continually chastised for the supposed 0.1 per cent of global emissions this generates.

He makes a strong case.

Blog Bits

June 18th, 2008 at 3:12 pm by David Farrar

Poneke laments how Waterfront Watch’s campaign against the Wellington Hilton, has meant no waterfront development is likely for a decade. Instead we are left with those awful tin sheds.

Bruce Simpson at Aardvark covers the efforts of Associated Press to claim that even using their headlines is a breach of the US DMCA. This may be very significant if bloggers are not able to significantly quote articles in order to critique them.

Whale Oil detects more links between The Standard and Labour or more specifically labour.co.nz. The Standard responds. A great thread for those who get hot with talk of DNS and MX records 🙂

The Economist looks at the school system in Finland and Sweden.

And since I’m coming this far north, I want to take in Sweden too. That social-democratic paradise has carried out school reforms that make free-market ideologues the world over weak at the knees. In the 1990s it opened its state-education system to private competition, allowing new schools to receive the same amount for each pupil as the state would have spent on that child.

The Dim-Post has some solutions for the South Auckland crime wave:

  • Limit numbers on all polytechnic courses teaching home invasion and armed robbery techniques.
  • Increase existing levels of sedatives and oral contraceptives in Manukau water supply.
  • Create an economic disincentive to homicide by amending the Emissions Trading Scheme to double carbon fees on vehicles used during a murder
  • Introduce cultural sensitivity training to South Aucklands migrant communities teaching them to be more open and tolerant towards the kiwi tradition of random assault and pointless execution style killings.
  • Point to multiple Asian murders as irrefutable statistical evidence for sending ‘em all back.

Also, finally not a blog but of interest to EFA watchers is this note of a meeting between Federated Farmers and the Electoral Commission over the EFA.

Fed Farmers

June 16th, 2008 at 8:59 am by David Farrar

Congratulations to Conor English on his appointment as CEO of Federated Farmers. Conor is a former CEO of the Property Institute, and has a farming background.

Conor is one of Bill’s many brothers. He is of course his own man, and people should not assume their politics are identical. Conor, if I recall correctly, has none of those left wing tendencies that Bill occasionally gets 🙂

Hat Tip: The Hive

Well done Helen

April 23rd, 2008 at 5:00 pm by David Farrar

Helen had to miss out on the gala dinner in Singapore where she received a trophy made of recycled metal from the UN for being one of seven winners in the annual UN Champions of the Earth awards.Now Helen’s record on carbon emissions is worse than George W Bush and John Howard. Kyoto is all about what percentage increase or decrease one should have over 1990 levels and George and John did better than Helen in being closer to their target.

NZ has the fourth worst actual record of annex 1 countries in terms of meeting our Kyoto obligations (we are 29% over target) so one can only conclude, the award is yet another indication of the UN’s long demonstrated preference for rhetoric over substance. Typical UN – does not matter what you do in practice, as long as you churn out the right rhetoric!

No Right Turn also notes:

But while its great policy, none of this stuff has actually been implemented yet, so Clark has essentially been given this award on the basis of hot air.

I am not sure the policy is that great. They have yet to pass a single policy through Parliament. Their biofuels legislation has been rubbished by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and their Emission scheme by Greenpeace. Their Fart Tax failed due to the hypocrisy of treatment of debits and credits.

The future price of carbon is so uncertain, that I more and more think a carbon tax in the short term would be better than the tradeable emissions scheme. Under some dire scenarios the scheme could wipe out out food export sector. from Radio NZ yesterday:

Federated Farmers says the Government’s proposed emissions trading scheme has the potential to extingish [sic] extinguish food exports from New Zealand. The comments are based on a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry report which shows the projected impacts of the trading scheme on farmers’ profitsm a range of different carbon prices and the corresponding financial impact the scheme would have on different sectors such as sheep, beef, dairy, horticulture and deer. The figures analyse the impact the Emissions Trading Scheme would have had on the sectors if it had been introduced without warning in mid-2006. Among the worst affected sectors are deer, sheep and beef, greenhouse tomatoes and dairy. Federated Farmers’ Dairy Section Chairman Frank Brenmuhl says based on the projections for a payout of $4.14 per kilo of milk solids and a full carbon price of $50 per tonne the average drop in farmers’ profits would be 123%.

Now for those who only have a degree in economic history, a 123% drop in profits means you will be losing money. In other words no food production at all. So we will meet out Kyoto target by importing all our food from overseas. Hmmn that will be great eh.

UPDATE: The Greens’ Frog Blog is also weighing in, comparing Helen Clark getting an award for being a Champion of the Earth to Brian Waddle being named Black Cap of the Year for his cricket commentary. Shit that is funny – Frog is being more sarcastic than me!