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Rabobank’s recent farmer confidence survey highlighted what was already clear to many. Farmers are becoming increasingly concerned about their future and the Government’s policies are the key reason for this negative sentiment.

The survey shows that farmers’ confidence has taken a sharp drop with 68 per cent of farmers holding a negative outlook. This is not surprising considering the continued onslaught of uncertainty and costs that farmers have endured since this Government came to power; whether it be the proposal for agriculture entering the Emissions Trading Scheme or onerous methane targets in the Zero Carbon Bill. The latest knock is the raft of Freshwater proposals and the cynical consultation process surrounding them.

This is having a tangible impact on both farmers’ mental health and businesses.

Water is an asset and a source of recreation in New Zealand, and we all know it must be abundant, healthy, clean and cost effective. While we encourage the constant improvement of our waterways, the proposals from the Government on Freshwater are short-sighted, with potentially perverse effects on our primary sector and wider economy.

These wide-ranging proposals will limit the flexibility of New Zealand farmers to adjust to market conditions and change their land use, restricting innovation which is one of New Zealand’s key advantages. Farmers looking to be on the cutting edge of the market and transition to new crops will be hamstrung. The only conversions being supported by this document is the planting of more trees. Modelling in the document suggested 68 per cent of dry-stock farms in the Waikato area would be converted into forestry as a direct result of the proposed regulations.

Government data from Land, Air, Water Aotearoa’s (LAWA) analysis of national river quality trends from 2008 to 2017, showed that for eight out of the nine water quality indicators reported on, more monitored sites were improving than degrading.

A large part of this consistent increase in quality is the huge amount of work farmers have already done to improve water quality. We signed an accord with the dairy industry that has seen farmers fence off 98 per cent of their waterways, a distance of Auckland to Chicago and back – add to this over $1 billion in environmental investment over the last five years.

The primary sector accounts for about 60 per cent of New Zealand's goods exports. If we want access to top-notch healthcare, transport and education, we need to sell something of value to the world. Running down the industry that is supporting our way of life is perverse and has a negative effect on everyone.

I am hosting Hon Todd Muller, MP for Bay of Plenty and Opposition Spokesperson for Agriculture, Biosecurity, Food Safety and Forestry for a series of public meetings to discuss the Freshwater Reforms, and I welcome all people to attend, and share their ideas and feedback before submissions close at the end of the month. I hope you will join us for one of these discussions.

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