Budget misses the mark for dairy farmers and rural communities
21 May 2021
The Government’s Budget has missed the opportunity to give farmers the on-the-ground backing they need to continue innovating and enhancing sustainability, says DairyNZ.
“This is a business-as-usual Budget with nothing new or transformational for farmers or rural communities,” said Jenny Cameron, DairyNZ GM for Responsible Dairy.
“Although funding has continued for existing programmes, which is a positive, there is very little new funding to help farmers accelerate the pace or scale of the great work they are doing behind the farm gate to improve environmental outcomes.
“Farmers have faced increasing regulations over the last four years – particularly when it comes to water quality, emission reductions and biodiversity. We are making great progress, but there is a lot to do,” said Ms Cameron.
“It’s positive to see some budget going to national training to deliver more skilled farm advisers, and an accelerator fund will invest in targeted initiatives to significantly broaden the uptake of integrated farm planning. This is the sort of practical on-the-ground action that is needed.”
“It’s good to see some money going into research and development for greenhouse gases but given the scale of the challenge farmers are facing, we hoped to see a greater increase in R&D funding that will help them meet obligations. The fact this didn’t eventuate only highlights the urgent need for a clear strategy for science funding and we urge the Government to act on this.”
DairyNZ is also disappointed there wasn’t more investment in initiatives to help build resilience in rural communities – particularly when it comes to digital connectivity, biosecurity and rural mental health.
“Covid-19 has shown how susceptible New Zealand’s economy is to global shocks. We need more investment in on-the-ground initiatives to protect our primary sector, yet the investment in biosecurity has fallen short,” said Ms Cameron.
“We hoped to see a substantial Government boost to fund preparedness, capability and cutting-edge technologies.
“A $10m investment over four years for increased rural digital connectivity is a drop in the bucket and falls short of what is needed. Connectivity is vital for business resilience, and we have yet to see a real plan to address this.”
Climate Change Commission recommendations said connectivity was essential to help farmers reduce carbon emissions.
Last year DairyNZ’s View from the Cow Shed report identified 50 percent of farmers did not have the broadband they needed on farm. Fifty-two percent didn’t have good enough mobile reception.
“Rural communities desperately need more investment to connect them, and their businesses, to the world. If we want to attract and keep people in our sectors, then we need to support our rural communities with infrastructure, health, education and sports facilities.”
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