The statement from the Dairy Workers Union that farmers should subsidise milk for Kiwi consumers was a typical grandstanding posture from a group which has perfected the art of squeezing farmers.
Their submission to the Parliamentary select committee on milk prices was that Fonterra’s dairy farmers should provide a discount, at their own cost, for domestically sold milk, because of the support the dairy industry gets from the rest of the country.
For a start, that support is repaid with interest. Every year Kiwi dairy products bring in a huge proportion of this country’s international revenue.
The current strong international prices mean more dollars coming in, more jobs in dairy and supporting industries and more money spent in the shops, meaning more people earning more money.
If farmers discounted local milk, they would have less money to hire people, pay wages and spend on goods and services. If the milk price dropped overnight, as it did in 2009 with the onset of the global financial crisis, would the discount stop? Not likely. Perhaps, the next time Dairy Workers Union members demand a pay increase, they could take the lead by putting any pay increases into subsidising local milk.
Not that they would consider it. Instead this union is skilled at using tactics, such making pay demands during Octobers’ seasonal peak of production and threatening to stop milk collection. This not only threatens farm businesses; the resulting spilt milk could also become an environmental hazard which farmers cannot afford to allow.
These tactics already cost the community in jobs and spending on farm infrastructure to clean up the environment and increase productivity. The suggestion farmers take a paycut, coming from this union, will go down like a cup of cold mastitis.
While the select committee heard evidence on milk prices this week, don’t expect any announcements until next year. God, these politicians move fast.
On the local government front, I always believed it was the role of council staff to work for councillors chosen by the people of a district, or region, and support them in making sound policy decisions reflecting the local population’s needs.
I certainly did not believe it was the council staffs’ job to decide on policy before it had been consulted on and tell councillors what to say and when. I certainly do not believe staff should be meeting councillors behind closed doors to shut down public policy discussions of proposed bylaws, before they even get started. Lastly, senior staff should not then fall asleep, when that item is rushed through the agenda.
Staff may have their opinions on what is, or is not a necessary bylaw, but once they have gathered the evidence and facts, the information should be presented to those elected into office to make the decisions.
Speaking of decisions, I am looking forward to the day I can try out my bike around the ‘Home of Cycling’ velodrome. It is not a traditional race cycle; more of a farm motorbike, but with Waikato Regional Council voting to hand over $6 million of ratepayers’ money to the project, I want to have some fun there too.
I don’t see how this facility would bring any financial benefits to our community and I do not believe such a specialised facility can have wider social benefits either. Will this increase the number of Waikato kids getting on their bikes and increasing their physical fitness? I doubt it as riding around in a circle all day won’t appeal to many.
Not that the public will get much time to ride in the velodrome even if they wanted to. Apparently it would be open to general Waikato residents for about an hour a day.
To me, this project fails to satisfy on either the economic or the social responsibility remit that residents give their elected local authorities.
Finally, with the news there have been milk thefts around our region, I remind farmers to remain vigilant about security on the farm and keep an eye out for your neighbours as well.
Anyone with access to a tanker can pull up and drain your tanks, and wallets, with pumps able to suck $240 worth of milk a minute out of vats. It doesn’t take long to lose a lot of income.
James Houghton is the provincial president of Federated Farmers Waikato.