Hoggard to give up top dairy job for tilt at Fed's second-in-command role
Federated Farmers Dairy chairman Andrew Hoggard is retiring from the national position to chase the organisation's vice president role.
After three years as national dairy chairman he hopes to step up later this month at Federated Farmers annual meeting and national conference in Wellington.
Hoggard said his three years had been eventful, particularly with the workplace action plan aimed at lifting dairy employment standards on farms.
"I hope I come across as a reasonable person. I talked about the challenges farmers' face. I tried to put the human face on it. And I hope I came across well and city people don't think of us farmers as a bunch of a......es."
He said a large part of the job was unseen such as meeting with lawmakers to talk through the impact of rules and regulations on farmers.
"Quite often you ask is it meeting what it set out to do, and are there unintended consequences."
He said bobby calf rules were originally all swept up in new legislation.
"But if calves are going to the neighbouring farm then they don't need the same regulations as if they are being sold at saleyards, or going for slaughter."
Hoggard said milk testing for antibiotic cows would have cost farmers tens of thousand of dollars and antibiotic cows would be tested many times each.
"We thought about what the Ministry for Primary Industries was trying to achieve, and changed it before it became a rule," he said. "It is pointing out the consequences of a proposed rule change for farmers."
Hoggard said the changes around immigration laws, which had a major impact on dairying, had been done quickly.
"The discussion time was three weeks. We hardly had time to get our heads around it and put in a submission. We need time to talk to our members and get their feedback and then pass that on. With this the feedback couldn't happen."
He said Federated Farmers liked to get members' thoughts on issues in proposed legislation and submit with their thoughts in mind.
"The lawmakers can't go to every farmer, that is why they come to the Feds."
Farming has less political representation with fewer farmers in Parliament than there used to be.
Hoggard could easily name all the politicians with farms.
"About one third of the population is in Auckland so one third of the politicians will come from there. Farmers have less representation."
Hoggard said farmers made up one electorate but they were spread around New Zealand.
"Yes we have less representation but that's not necessarily a bad thing. People who know nothing about the rural sector tend to listen strongly."
He has represented dairy farmers at the top level of federated Farmers and says change is in the air.
"People have fears about synthetic milk, and it should be at the back of our minds. There has been proof of concept [milk], but companies have to figure out how to commercialise it and market it so some people might want to buy it."
Hoggard believed synthetic milk would eventually replace the lower end of the market such as milk products for baking.
"I believe a sizeable group will want the real thing. They will want naturally produced milk. But consumers will want to know environmental standards are being met, animal welfare standards are good and the social licence to farm is right up there.'
He said many farmers, including himself, were thinking a lot about the standards needed to farm.
"It needs not to be the minimum legal requirement, but better than best practice."
Hoggard said he was looking at what might work with bobby calves.
"Perhaps cows can cope with an extended lactation so there are no calves. I am thinking about ease of calving breeds. I am considering where we go forward and pitch the farm."
He said he believed synthetic milk would be 10-15 years away.
"But we should start thinking about it now. That's not long, and if you make a change on-farm, well that takes time too. We, as an industry, need to think about change now."
He said dairy farmers only had to look at woollen carpets, which lost most of its ground to synthetic carpets, to realise that doing nothing was not an option.
"Well you'd have to say it didn't market woollen carpets well. It is a natural fibre, not something made from oil from the ground and should be able to make market inroads."
Hoggard finishes as dairy chairman on June 21.
He is likely to be one of three chasing the vice president's role.
Hoggard said there was often talking until late in the night to shore up votes.
A two horse race is thought to be likely for the national presidency, between current vice president Anders Crofoot, from Wairarapa, and Katie Milne, Westland Dairy Co-operative vice president, and Federated Farmers executive member.