DairyNZ’s 2023 View from the Cowshed survey highlights the significant impact off-farm factors are having inside the farm gate.
The recent fall in the farmgate milk price has only added to farmers’ concerns which have this year centred on the impact of inflation and regulations.
“This year’s View from the Cowshed survey shows farmers have been very concerned, for some time, about the impact of inflation and compliance on their businesses,” says DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel.
“Declining revenues from the reduced milk price will create additional challenges. It’s vital we support farmers to succeed, given their significant contribution to local communities and their economies.”
Dairy is projected to generate over $25 billion in export revenue this year alone.
Farmer concerns from the View from the Cowshed have contributed to DairyNZ’s five policy recommendations for after the 2023 general election.
Farm finances: Over the past year our dairy farmers, like all Kiwis, have felt the pinch of inflation, with almost 75% reporting experiencing cost increases of over 20% in the past year.
“This is impacting their business viability, especially when combined with the reduced milk price. Many farmers will be struggling to make ends meet and focused on minimising losses this year," says Mr van der Poel.
"It’s vital the forthcoming Government keeps tight control of spending and avoids contributing to inflationary pressures."
Regulations: The View from the Cowshed survey shows dairy farmers’ biggest concerns about government regulations are being unpractical (72%), too much change at once (69%) and the speed of change (64%).
“Regulatory requirements are negatively impacting farmers and their businesses, while excessive regulations are creating frustrations. It does not make sense to add additional regulation costs for little benefit,” says Mr van der Poel.
DairyNZ is calling for an independent regulatory review panel, made up of experienced farmers from across the primary sector.
“The panel would review all proposed regulations to ensure they are necessary, practical, cost-effective and will achieve desired outcomes,” says Mr van der Poel.
Workforce: The View from the Cowshed survey findings also emphasise the pressing need to resolve workforce challenges, including staff shortages and retention. A total of 26% of farmers say they don’t have enough staff to meet their needs, while 29% are never or rarely able to find staff with the skills and experience they need.
“To fill staff shortages on dairy farms, we need to recruit people best suited for the roles,” says Mr van der Poel.
DairyNZ wants policymakers to continue collaborating with sector organisations to improve recruitment and retention. This includes flexible immigration policies and support for the Great Futures in Dairying Plan (the sector’s long-term plan to build great workplaces and workforce).
Mental health: 48% of farmers say they or someone on their farm have experienced mental health issues in 2023, and 60% say there is not enough rural mental health support.
“DairyNZ is advocating for dedicated rural mental health funding and an increase in the delivery of appropriate services in rural communities,” says Mr van der Poel. “Increased financial pressure over the next year means it’s very important we accelerate this work.”
Climate change: Most farmers surveyed in the View from the Cowshed think the current methane reduction targets for 2030 and 2050 are too ambitious.
“The methane reduction targets must reflect scientific developments, global emissions goals and the economic realities we face, and accurately reflect the warming impact of methane. That’s what we’ll be advocating for when the Climate Change Commission reviews emissions reduction targets in 2024,” says Mr van der Poel.
“Overall, dairy farmers are doing a magnificent job delivering for their families, communities and New Zealand. There are challenges ahead for the sector and we need to avoid putting unnecessary barriers in the way. DairyNZ will continue to advocate for the sector’s success and ultimately that of New Zealand.”
Read the full View from the Cowshed report.
DairyNZ and dairy farmer asks for 2023 general election:
- Farm finances: Tight control of government spending to avoid exacerbating inflationary pressures.
- Regulations: Establish an independent regulatory review panel, to provide feedback before regulations are implemented.
- Workforce: Collaborate with sector organisations to improve recruitment and retention of dairy workers.
- Mental health: Allocate dedicated funding for rural mental health, and targeted delivery of services in rural areas.
- Climate change: Ensure review of emissions targets is fair, works for farmers and accurately accounts for the warming impact of methane.
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