Let’s not forget science is one of the pillars of Labour’s primary industries approach

NZIAHS president Jill Stanley – going out to bat for agricultural and horticultural scientists on Radio Live at the weekend – reminded her interviewers and audience of something Labour’s Andrew Little told Federated Farmers almost a year ago.

Mr Little was Labour’s leader at the time and immediately after the introductory courtesies he told the feds:

The future of New Zealand’s primary industries can be summed up in two words — science and sustainability.

These are the twin pillars of Labour’s approach.

Last month Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced 15 appointments to the Primary Sector Council, which has been charged with helping the primary sector to capture more value from its work.

The council will provide independent strategic advice to the Government on issues confronting the primary industries.

But where are the scientists?

Dr Stanley raised that question in a press statement (HERE).

She was asked to discuss her concerns with Radio Live’s Rural Exchange team (the interview can be heard HERE) at the weekend.

She said she believes the business leaders on the council will do a great job but called the lack of scientists “surprising”.

She hopes to meet with Mr O’Connor in the near future, aiming to persuade him that including scientists in this council is crucial.

At the very least there need to be scientific advisors to the council, she says.

Mr O’Connor argued that the appointees are “business-focused” and that they understand the future (very contentiously implying that scientists do not).

“I’m not going to appoint, and I was never going to, a bunch of people just representing their particular sector,” he told Rural Exchange.

AgScience dug out Mr Little’s speech to Federated Farmers last June.

He acknowledged that modern farming is a scientific endeavour.

“Scientific innovation drives advances in plant cytology and animal husbandry, land management and product development. From the farm gate to the supermarket shelf, the guiding hand of science is signally evident.

But scientific progress and the application of science to your business only makes sense if it is employed on a sustainable basis. Every farmer knows their relationship with the land is a relationship of trust.”

Mr Little proceeded to say:

  • New Zealand had to focus on developing products which add maximum value here in New Zealand and capitalise on our clean green image. “It requires the successful marriage of science and sustainability”.
  • The common thread that links positive developments in our primary industries “is the ability to put science into commercial production and sustain consumer demand through a constant process of innovation and renewal”.
  • Labour’s fresh approach to innovation in agriculture calls for increased research and development and Labour will introduce a new Research and Development Tax Credit.
  • Investment in Primary Growth Partnerships has come at the expense of our agricultural research institutes that lack the funding security needed for research in critical areas such as soil science and water management. Funding will be directed back into core research.

Mr Little concluded:

“We need a new and inclusive vision of the future of farming. A future based on science, sound environmental management and investment in rural communities.”

And:

“Our prosperity as a nation depends … on our willingness to put science into practice. It depends on our ability to manage our most important industry sustainably.”

This reinforces Dr Stanley’s insistence that – at the very least – the new Primary Sector Council should have scientific advisors.

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