New Zealand 'in a lucky position'

Bruce Wills
Bruce Wills
Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills attended the Southern Field Days held at Waimumu recently, and took a moment out from a busy schedule to talk to Southern Rural Life reporter Leith Huffadine.

Q How are you enjoying Waimumu, Bruce?

A ''It's my first time visit to Waimumu so I feel very guilty about that, but it is great to be here ... I go mostly to Mystery Creek [field days], but this has a great feel to it - far more rural.''

Q What does the year ahead look like for Federated Farmers?

A ''It's worth mentioning that it's a year of change for Federated Farmers. I am finishing my term in five months and CEO Conor English is also stepping down, but it is exciting. Change is good, it brings new opportunities an it's always another business year. Our big issue is the same as 2013 - water. We have to get this water stuff in a better place. Agriculture needs to keep growing and make sure that it continues to help drive the economy, but it is important that we do that in a long-term, sustainable manner.''

Q Do you have any areas you also want to focus upon other than water issues?

A ''I guess total focus is helping farmers achieve profitable and sustainable farming. High pay outs this year are exciting for the economy but we need to keep improving environmental performance of farms.''

Q Where does New Zealand sit on the world stage at the moment, and what are our prospects for agriculture?

A ''New Zealand farmers are world pastoral leaders and we export 90% of what we produce. This is foremost as we have a world screaming out for the high protein products that we produce. In New Zealand we produce enough food per year to feed 40 million people, so I think New Zealand is in a lucky position - we are recognised as a world leader in safe, high quality food and our future is very bright. The bottom line is, I'm very optimistic for New Zealand farming and the economy as a whole.''

Q What are some of the big challenges for agriculture in the year ahead?

A ''We have got to grow agriculture but also do that with a small footprint. A lot of work at the moment keeping economy and environment in balance - water is big. A challenge will be politics, the Government and election year. I have been spending time with political parties to make sure they understand the importance of agriculture [to the economy].''

Q How do you think farmers are responding and reacting to new regulations and demands for more environmental protection?

A ''Farmers are responding well. They are very good at reading the environment and economy. The whole reason they are still about is because they adapt to new situations. Some things will take a while but we are going to get there. We're on a good track.''