No excuse for attack on Wills over shipment

JAMES HOUGHTON
Last updated 08:15 09/04/2013

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OPINION: The autumn seems to finally be gaining some traction with cooler temperatures at nights and in the mornings. We can only hope that means we get some decent rain heading our way soon.

There has been a lot of talk about a particular shipment of straw and hay from the South Island.

I know how stressed farmers are at the moment and that some are struggling to pay for stock feed.

However, I do not think there was any excuse for the attacks on Federated Farmers national president Bruce Wills for having pulled the pin on a feed shipment which farmers where reluctant to commit to buy and which had no place to go, other than sit on the wharf.

It was especially disappointing that these attacks originated from emails leaked by people who should have known the difficulties and frustrations around organising these loads.

Having spoken to farmers and contractors in Waikato, I know there is already plenty of South Island feed being brought up. Demand is being met by the usual channels.

Having a pile of feed sitting unclaimed on a wharf is no good to anyone, so the decision to concentrate on manageable loads was a good one.

We need to look at all the facts before calling out the lynch mobs when something falls over.

I hope the Hawke's Bay Rural Support Trust officer has learnt the wisdom of having a quiet cup of tea and taking a reflective moment before heading to the media next time.

The comments and resulting media flurry also overlooked the shipments which have successfully arrived from the South Island, thanks to hundreds of hours put in by Bruce and others.

They saw the constraints on road transport and have been working with shippers, feed suppliers and third-party supporters to get about 80,000 small bale equivalents of feed moving north.

It is good to see the GlobalDairyTrade internet auction is still rising, up another 14 per cent last week. It shows the truth of the economic laws of supply and demand.

These rises are a direct response to fears that following Europe's and the United States' poor performance last year, the New Zealand drought could lead to a shortage of dairy products.

This is good news for farmers wanting higher pay-outs to try to claw back some of the season's losses, but consumers may end up paying more.

Perhaps a less fickle system, similar to the palm kernel market where people establish long-term relationships to secure long-term supply, is needed.

A while ago, someone explained to me that phone companies' priority for erecting new cellphone towers was based on demand - that is, complaints around a lack of service.

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If rural people want prompt action on getting more towers up, we need to get hold of our cellphone suppliers, start complaining and make ourselves heard.

Having entered the Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards, last week I went to the finals dinner to see what the winners have been doing on their farms.

I was impressed with the finalists and winners all going well above and beyond what is being called for from all farmers.

It was an inspirational evening with a lot of dedicated environmentalist farmers.

The supreme award winners were Grant Wills and Karen Preston, whose 244-hectare dairy farm, Tremeer in Walton, is an outstanding testament to what can be achieved environmentally.

If you want a bit of inspiration, or you have an urban friend who could benefit from a better understanding of what farmers do for their environment, Grant and Karen, along with sharemilker Steve Ironmonger, are holding a field day at Tremeer on May 15. For more details, check outbfea.org.nz.

I noted statistics released last week show an impressive 7.5 per cent drop in Waikato's recorded crime rate last year but I wonder how much of that is in rural areas.

The reports I hear suggest there are as many problems with theft from sheds and paddocks as ever, but the real issue could be that we farmers are still not reporting them.

I hope farmers will not get complacent and will remember those important precautions, such as putting locks on sheds or taking the keys out of a tractor's ignition, before heading home for the night.

The harder you make it for criminals, the more likely they will go elsewhere.

James Houghton is Federated Farmers Waikato provincial president.

- Waikato

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