Safe as Milk

Up to 10% of NZ dairy farmers could go broke in the next few months.  John Key is relaxed about that possibility, saying that the banks will show their usual generosity of spirit in hard times. No, really.

“What I’m getting more of is the sorts of reassurance noises from the banks that say in their view they can work through this issue”.

Further, we’ve got an absolute, airtight guarantee from the PM that the banks won’t foreclose on anyone.

“It’s not in their interest or the farmers’ interest to force everybody off the land. They are not going to do that.”

Well, I’m reassured! It’s not like the man is an inveterate liar, is it?

National’s Bill English has already written off those struggling farmers, saying that there won’t be a bailout. Fair enough too, goes the Tory logic. Bailouts are for the shareholding class, big banks and finance companies, not productive, hard working Kiwis. Perhaps Bill English reckons they should just go for a long last walk out to the back paddock and stop bothering successful urban based farmers like him?

Meanwhile, the adults are suggesting what is needed is an urgent summit of the players to work our way through this crisis collectively. James Shaw, Winston Peters and Andrew Little looked at the current situations and possible solutions on The Nation. It’s well worth watching.

Labour, in particular, wants Government, the banks, Fonterra and Federated Farmers in the same room to work out a solution. That would be a logical first step and actually not in the least bit inconsistent with the early days of the Key Government. It’s worth remembering that when National took over in 2008, the first thing they did was hold a series of regional workshops on the economy.

That roadshow was designed to show the new Government as active, involved, solution based. Nowadays … meh.

Third term arrogance, anyone?

It’s clear that the NACT Government didn’t see this crisis coming. Their reluctance to help is more embarrassment than orthodox neo-lib economic thinking. They certainly don’t mind tinkering when it suits them. But nowadays? It’s another sign of their entropy and decay as a government. They’re tired, short of ideas and hopefully sleepwalking to defeat in 2 years. If they last that long.

In contrast, Andrew Little wants the banks knocked into line, pronto. The likely next PM says the banks need to be “stiff-armed and told we’re not going to see, wholesale, farmers pushed off the land.”

It’s great to see some righteous anger from the Labour leader!

After all, the ten percent of farmers who are on the brink of bankruptcy now are likely to be smaller holdings, family farms for the most part. You know, the rural voters National used to be able to rely on before Key hatched his mad scheme to piss on the NZ flag.

This isn’t just great politics from Labour. While it will go down well in the provinces that at least one political party is in touch with their needs, it is a genuine crisis that needs swift attention. The dairy industry is a significant component of our economy and if we let the smaller players go to the wall, all that will be left will be corporate farmers. Again, just as in the Auckland housing market, our ‘open borders to foreign speculators’ policy is going to hamstring us for generations to come.

Laughably, John Key claims that one solution to the crisis in dairy is the TPPA. He couldn’t be more wrong if he was, well, lying. His other solution, irrigation, is equally wet.

The dairy industry isn’t going away. And it must pay its own way, including cleaning up the mess it makes. But if we want our farms owned by Kiwis, worked by Kiwis and run in the interest of Kiwis, then now is the time to act.

One thing is for sure, foreign dairy farm owners don’t give a fig about whether or not we can still swim in our rivers. It’s locally based dairy farmers who are finally getting behind the clean rivers accord. If we lose ten percent of our Kiwi dairy farmers, we lose an opportunity to move toward a genuinely 100% clean and green future.

For the sake of our economic and environmental future, we need a dairy industry that is actively supported and guided by our government. A dairy industry summit would be a sign of leadership, big picture thinking and commitment to the future.

But perhaps John Key looks at a dying dairy farm, wistfully smiles and just sees a potential golf course.

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About tereoputake

Lefty, footballer, vegetarian View all posts by tereoputake

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