Tony Brenton-Rule, commenting on the challenge of nominating ag/hort scientists for honours and awards or persuading them to apply for precious research funding, notes that public perception of pastoral agriculture has changed greatly over the last 20+ years.
It began, perhaps, with a previous Prime Minister who incorrectly described agriculture as a sunset industry, he suggests. This observation did considerable harm to the sector, especially its attractiveness to young people looking at their employment opportunities.
Writing from San Antonio, Texas, Tony says:
Now a present Prime Minister has (finally) recognised, in respect to regulatory control of livestock emissions, that the country’s export earnings are based on its biological economy. However, her administration espouses policies that are inimical to the pastoral aspects of it, such as the lavishly tax-payer funded 1 billion trees programme, supported by carbon policies that are causing swathes of productive farmland to be captured by overseas parties with no long term interest in New Zealand’s future; and which impose a monoculture, from which may emerge millions of logs to be exported with zero value-add.
Any of us in the NZIAHS could spell out other aspects of the challenge, from a now five million increasingly urbanised population, an increasing proportion of whom will have little knowledge of the primary sector – (there’s some very interesting detail here: http://www.growingup.co.nz/en/research-findings-impact/key-findings.html ), to the over-intensification of dairy farming in parts of the country, a self-inflicted wound that is going to be slow to heal.
I think we, collectively, will have to work on this much greater challenge before we’ll see New Zealand’s best ag/hort researchers honoured.
Is there a role for NZIAHS in this? Might the Institute usefully talk to others in the sector?
There are voices who may be interested to hear a research perspective, e.g. BakerAg https://www.bakerag.co.nz/news/open-letter-national-policy-freshwater-statement and the signatories to the recent full page advertisement in New Zealand newspapers concerning the government’s pastoral sector policies.
I’m not suggesting that NZIAHS enter adversarial politics. However, I am wondering whether it could play a role in helping to have New Zealand’s primary-sector policies based more on high quality research and less on poorly informed rhetoric. If yes, then I suggest it might have greater impact by ‘teaming up’ with other stakeholders and adding a science voice to their concerns.