OPINION: It has been a year like no other.
While retaining a sense of humour, we have seen natural disasters from one end of the country to the other, with adverse events kicking us while we are down. The dairy industry has taken a hiding with biosecurity issues left, right and centre, and the red meat industry is trying to do the impossible, by reforming its industry.
Meanwhile, New Zealand has started to open up its trade gates, with South America first to let us in; we are starting to see signs of New Zealand recovering from the global financial crisis; and after years of hard work to improve the country's water quality we are gaining momentum and getting measurable results.
These first three paragraphs are exhausting, just reflecting on all that has happened, and I have barely scratched the surface.
In the midst of all this, Federated Farmers has been up front and centre steering the helm for all its members. While members may often wonder what Federated Farmers does on issues that affect them, I can assure you that the federation's team is busy breaking down the regulatory requirements that affect you and making sure that you get the best outcome that they can achieve.
None of this would be possible without members recognising the value of what Federated Farmers does for farmers and the primary industry, by becoming and remaining a member every year.
You contributed to many wins and variations of council plans, and government regulations. Sitting on the executive of an organisation like Federated Farmers, the largest lobby group in New Zealand, you get to work with and meet some incredible game-changers in the industry. At the same time you have to bang your head against a few walls and talk in circles with some challenging people and organisations that may never change the way they view farmers or the industry.
Often I feel frightened of what I see coming in our direction, but then I remind myself that the ostrich philosophy of burying my head in the sand and doing nothing is not an option. All farmers need to stand up and support us and not rely on others to do it all.
Sometimes it seems like a thankless and doomed task, but when we get those wins, it feels great. The key to all of this is getting the game-changers, be they for or against us, to see farmers as people. So often farmers are looked at like an endless stream of money or the "environmental rapists", as one columnist termed it. So sitting at the table with the people that influence those views is necessary. If they don't understand who farmers really are, what affects them and the good work they do, then there is no chance of culture change or being able to come up with workable solutions. One of my favourite phrases is, "First seek to understand, then to be understood".
One of the most controversial cases this year, where Federated Farmers was able to get a workable solution, was the One Plan. You can rest assured that your money was well spent if you farm in the Horizons region. Now the year is coming to an end and I thought you ought to know a little about how your membership has helped us make farming easier for you, support you in times of strife and tell your stories to those who think they know who you are and what you do.
It has been a year of trials and tribulations so I hope you all enjoy a well deserved break. Please don't let yourself, your family or your visitors become an accident statistic. For those working through, make sure you take some time out to reflect on the year that has certainly challenged us all and plan for the year ahead.
Finally, thank you for making it possible for the federation to stand in your corner and defend your livelihood, to ensure we remain the top industry for New Zealand's economy.
James Houghton is Federated Farmers Waikato provincial president.
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