While admirable, the PM’s speech to the Primary Industry Summit misses one key problem

While admirable, the PM’s speech to the Primary Industry Summit misses one key problem

The Prime Minister addressed the Primary Industries Summit at the end of last year, talking about the significant contribution of the food and fibres sector to New Zealand.

While the speech was well-received by most in the agriculture industry, there is however a basic underlying problem that is being missed.

What the Prime Minister said

Jacinda Ardern outlined 3 key objectives for the Government:

  1. Continuing to keep New Zealanders safe from Covid-19
  2. Accelerating New Zealand’s economic recovery
  3. Laying the foundations for the future.

The PM thanked the food producing and processing businesses for the role they played in keeping the country going during lockdown, rightly acknowledging that we wouldn’t be where we are now without those efforts.

September saw the new national directions on freshwater come into effect, helping to stop the dilapidation of our freshwater system, and hopefully improve ecosystem health throughout the country.

The Prime Minister also talked about the Government’s new $700 million fund to help implement new clean water standards. The initiative aims to create jobs in riparian/wetland planting, removing sediments and other initiatives to prevent farm run-off entering waterways.

The Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund was boosted by $80 million to provide immediate investment in the industry in addition to the initiatives the Government is already backing, such as reducing agricultural emissions, the One Billion Trees scheme, and helping the sector train more Kiwis to get jobs in the industry.

The PM also talked about the $1.1 billion investment in the Jobs for Nature programme which aims to improve freshwater, improve biosecurity and enhance biodiversity, creating up to 11,000 jobs in the process.

The Prime Minister also acknowledged He Waka Eke Noa which is a partnership between the food and fibres sector, government, and Māori. The project aims to support farmers and growers to protect, restore and sustain our environment and to enhance our well-being and that of future generations.

What we agree with

These aims and objectives of the Prime Minister and this Government are certainly admirable.

Restoring the health of our water, reversing the decline in biodiversity and moving to a low carbon emissions society are all targets important to a healthy future for our nation.

Any Government taking these issues seriously and investing in solutions is to be applauded.

However, while the intentions of the Government are commendable, there is an underlying problem that means the plan is going to miss the mark.

Where the problem lies

Our current, standard system of farming is unsustainable.

Setting targets for low carbon emissions doesn’t matter if our farmers can’t be confident in their long term future.  The global market is changing with more concern about health of food, health of the environment and animal welfare.  The current supply model limits our opportunity to change to meet these changing market needs and move up the value chain.

Pumping money into the food and fibres sector is pointless if the soil dies.

A complete change in the farming system must first be market led with changes to our supply chains from soil through to consumer,  or any long-term goals are simply unattainable.  We are only small players in the global food supply yet we continue to play in the commodity and price space. We can shift our model to align closer to these changing markets.

Industry frameworks are outdated, based on decades-old farming practices that have helped to create the natural disasters we see around today.

This outdated method puts production ahead of everything else, including the health of the land.

Treating the farming industry like a machine has had unintended consequences on the health of both the land and people, and until we fix the root cause of the problem, we will have the same results, no matter how much money the Government throws at the issue.

How we can achieve the PM’s goals

The same approach that got us into this mess will not get us out of it.

At the moment, the farming industry is treated like a machine; get the most out of it before it breaks.

We need to re-think how we farm, with regeneration as the key.

By looking at living systems and their ability to self-regenerate and self-maintain, we can learn from nature to create a sustainable and environmentally-friendly industry.

Regenerative Agriculture is the only framework available to us that can reach the Prime Minister’s goals and still have something left for future generations. We know how to do this, it is an approach to farming based on natural systems which has been practiced by indigenous peoples around the world for centuries.

Farmers know better than anyone what state the land is in, which is why so many of them are signing up to our Ecological Outcome Verification programme, a science-based method of ensuring healthier soil and longer-lasting farms.

Ata Regenerative and the fight for change

We have been campaigning for a change to the farming industry for years, promoting sustainable regeneration of the land through Holistic Management.

Holistic Management uses decision-making and planning to give people the insights and management tools they need for a successful future – without destroying the land.

We use the EOV method to check and verify if the plan is working, using empirical and tangible evidence.

As a nation, New Zealand needs to decide what it wants for future generations.

We know what the problem is and we know how to fix it, but we must heal the foundation that the industry is built on, our soil.

Unless we change the current paradigm, our future as an agricultural economy is at serious risk.

Ata Regenerative are at the forefront of regenerative agriculture practice in New Zealand. With 17 years working in the regenerative space and as the Savory Hub for NZ, Ata Regenerative is the only certified Ecological Outcome Verification provider in New Zealand. Ata Regenerative can assist with your transition to farm practice that focuses on the regeneration of soils, increased productivity and biological diversity, as well as economic and social well-being. To find out more, contact us here

Dr Hugh JellieMay 17, 20211

Dr Hugh Jellie

Dr Hugh Jellie is the founder of Ata Regenerative and has spent 17 years researching farming systems and regenerative agriculture around the world. He now helps farmers, organisations and individuals change to deliver improved environmental, social, financial and health outcomes.