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Ballance Chairman's address Showcase 2009

1 January 2009

Ballance Chairman's address Showcase 2009

Good evening, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Another successful round of Ballance Farm Environment Awards has taken place in eight regions throughout the country. Each year I continue to be impressed by the standard of the entries and sheer passion of the entrants. I seem to say this each year, but I am very genuine in what I say. Our farmers keep raising the bar.It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to say a few words on behalf of Ballance Agri-Nutrients and our national sponsor partners PGG Wrightson, Gallagher Group, LIC, Silver Fern Farms and Hill Laboratories.

First of all, I would like to particularly welcome tonight’s speaker and parliamentary host - the Honourable David Carter – who has sponsored this evening here tonight. Our thanks to David Carter for the privilege of being hosted at Parliament Buildings this evening. Special welcome also to Deputy Prime Minister, the Honourable Bill English, and to Green Party MP Jeanette Fitzsimons and National MP and fellow farmer Colin King. Greetings also to the local, regional and national government representatives here tonight. Ballance is delighted to have the support of our regional councils. Their practical support of these awards is testament to the importance they place on sustainable farming as the way forward for this country.

It’s good to see such a large turnout of industry representatives here this evening.

Your presence sends a clear message to the industry that you are dedicated to the ongoing improvement of our environment. Congratulations for your commitment.

This is the sixth showcase evening for the awards, and each year the event grows in stature and relevance. These awards are a vital demonstration of the commitment of our rural communities to protect and enhance the environment through sustainable farming. The most important welcome should therefore go to the regional winners.

Welcome, congratulations, and please enjoy tonight and the accolades that have rightfully come your way. Having four MPs here tonight is testament to your performance and to the standing of the awards.

Late last year the awards reached another level of recognition, by being chosen as a finalist in the New Zealand Herald Sponsorship Awards. This goes to show just how far they have come since their inception in 1993. As lead sponsor of the awards, and on behalf of our national sponsor partners, Ballance congratulates the New Zealand Farm Environment Awards Trust on this achievement. This was made possible through the superb work carried out by the Trust in organising and managing the awards process. Jim Cotman as chairman and David Natzke as general manager have been key drivers of the success the awards have enjoyed.

As economics become tougher it could be easy to take an eye off the environment.

But in reality much of our efforts to improve environmental performance involve reducing waste and improving efficiency. Continuing to focus on the environment will help us ride out financial difficulties.

One might ask the question - what is a fertiliser company doing sponsoring an environmental award? Ballance sponsors these awards because we believe in what they are trying to achieve. For us, the key to the awards is the impact they have had in promoting sustainable farming.

We get to see New Zealand ingenuity at its best, where many solutions are found through innovation and commitment. Our company and our technical sales representatives are actively working with the farming community to ensure our products are used most effectively, and with the least amount of waste. This effort will help to ensure that our farmer shareholders continue to have freedom to operate sustainable farming businesses.

The New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme is our next significant environmental hurdle. It poses significant challenges for traditional farming. However, it also provides us with another incentive to continue to evolve our farming practices to further reduce the impact on the environment.

The new National-led government has moved quickly to set up a Special Select Committee to review the ETS passed into law last September. We welcome the review of the ETS and congratulate the National government for taking the time to think this complex subject through. We feel much more comfortable with our country being a fast follower rather than an international leader.

At a higher level we wish the Government good luck in dealing with the political way forward for our ETS. My suspicion is that alignment with Australia will mean alignment with their economy. That won’t necessarily mean alignment with New Zealand’s unique agricultural economy.

On top of this, at an international level the undeveloped nations of the world seem to expect developed countries to pay for their ETS costs, which is simply unaffordable.

With many decisions on the political scene still to be made, there is a considerable way to go before we have certainty around the way forward.

Ballance is not opposed to the ETS concept – provided it doesn’t disadvantage New Zealand’s agricultural competitiveness by being introduced before our global trading partners match it. We will not have a level playing field until the agricultural sectors of all countries commit to the Kyoto Protocol.

Closer to home, the ‘point of obligation’ for emissions from agricultural use remains a key issue. To encourage the uptake of mitigation strategies, we believe there would be benefit in the obligation lying with farmers. This would enable individual farmers to mitigate their impact through the use of technologies and innovative farm practices.

We also believe that the approach should be on an intensity basis. This would help to ensure efficient producers in New Zealand are not penalised against less efficient off-shore producers.

The Ministry for Agriculture and Forestry is also taking the issue of climate change seriously. If their predictions of warmer temperatures, increased droughts and more intensive rainfall eventuate we will become vulnerable to a whole new range of threats and farming conditions. Kikuyu in Taupo and more facial eczema in the Waikato are muted scenarios.

On the upside, warmer wetter conditions could be of benefit to maize production.

Regardless of the outcome, we will have to adapt our farming practices to meet our changing environment. Despite the recent minor frosts we need to bear these predictions in mind when making strategic decisions.

As always, there are plenty of environmental challenges facing agriculture.

We encourage farmers and the support industry to actively invest in and look for solutions. I know this year’s awards entrants have and will continue to make a positive contribution to improving agriculture’s environmental sustainability.

So on behalf of Ballance and our fellow sponsors, I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the awards this year. A special thanks goes to the large number of volunteers who devote their time to the awards. There is a small army of farmers and rural professionals quietly working behind the scenes for these awards each year. Without them the programme wouldn’t be the success it is today.

It is no secret that many businesses have a challenging time ahead, and sponsorship budgets will be monitored carefully. To this end I would particularly like to acknowledge the ongoing support of sponsors in this difficult financial climate.

Your continued sponsorship speaks volumes for your commitment to these awards, and of course to the environment. Ballance has committed to these awards for another three years and we hope our fellow sponsors follow our lead.

This year we farewell the Gallagher Group, which has been involved in these awards since their inception in the Waikato. I wish to thank them for their national support of these awards over the past seven years. In their place we welcome new sponsor Massey University. Their involvement will add a new dimension to the awards as there is a lot of scope for students to match farmers’ practical innovation with their academic knowledge and trial work.

On behalf of Ballance and our fellow sponsors, I would like to thank everyone for attending the showcase tonight.

And again, congratulations to the entrants and deserving regional supreme winners this year. Thank you for the commitment, leadership and enthusiasm you have demonstrated. I trust you enjoy your evening in its entirety and make the most of the fanfare, which is richly deserved.

Well done on an outstanding achievement.