Farmer fears significant losses

National Party opposition agricultural spokesman Todd Muller in action in Ashburton recently. Photo: Toni Williams
National Party opposition agricultural spokesman Todd Muller in action in Ashburton recently. Photo: Toni Williams
As farmers anxiously await the outcome of the Government's Essential Freshwater plan, Ashburton farmer David Clark has outlined the significant losses it could have on his arable farm operation.

It includes crop income losses of 92%, sheep gross income losses of 62% and an expenditure decrease of 70%, affecting businesses, contractors and services in the district used by the farm.

David Clark
David Clark
He questioned how any government could suggest a plan that resulted in ''such economic vandalism''.

Mr Clark, attending a public meeting in Ashburton, organised by National Party opposition agricultural spokesman Todd Muller, said it was a comparative analysis based on a report done by Environment Canterbury's head scientist Dr Tim Davie in 2017, using similar cutbacks for the Waihora Selwyn Zone.

''We run a reasonably atypical irrigated, arable system much like any other in this district,'' Mr Clark said.

''And we budgeted, based on going back to dryland breeding ewes, which coincidentally was the farming system that was on the farm when we came to this district in 1994, so it's a relatively easy process of lifting out the 1994 budgets and annual accounts, and changing them to today's values.''

It was based on 3000 ewes and 50 hectares of dryland crop.

''Our crop income would reduce by 92%. Our sheep gross income would reduce by 62%. Our lamb purchases would reduce by 99%, so that's a direct impact on store lamb farmers. Our sheep net income would reduce by 28%. Our expenditure on our business would decrease by 70%, so that's a direct impact on any businesses (we use). Our earnings before interest in tax will decrease by 68%. Our capital reinvestment will decrease by 74%. Our net profit will decrease by 105%. And our tax paid will decrease by 75%.''

Mr Clark, who is Federated Farmers Mid Canterbury provincial president, questioned how any government could suggest a plan that resulted in ''such economic vandalism''. Such was the nationwide outcry to the plan, at its close, the plan had attracted more than 12,000 submissions.

Mr Muller noted it was unlikely any bank would stand by, especially those people loaded by debt, which would likely result in land being turned to forestry use, which reinforced his belief on the direction of the Government.

The plan, and its potential effects, was a point of conversation during the meeting attended by about 100 people.

It was Mr Muller's belief that ''this Government has a very different vision on where they want to take this country, and particularly the New Zealand economy, and it is anchored back to observations that they had 20 years ago''.

''They fundamentally believe that the future for this economy is a more diversified one, away from primary industries - embracing services, tourism and other opportunities - and they see a fundamental change in the reliance that this economy has had, over the last 100 years, on agriculture,'' he said.

''That was the vision in 2000 and underpins their vision today, but in my view they cloak it in other language so the issues they have put on the table from a policy perspective over the last two years, I think, are cloaked in that determination.''

Mr Muller, who has a rural background, was aware of the highs and lows of farming.

He spoke about capital gains tax, climate change (and reducing methane/emission levels without threatening food production) and the Emissions Trading Scheme, ''seen (by the Government), in this issue at least, it would be better to work with farmers than against them''.

He acknowledged the world-class efforts of New Zealand farmers already in place and spoke of the Government needing ''perspective'' about where New Zealand falls on a global scale.

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