Preparing your farming business for the future

Landscape image of a New Zealand farm

By BNZ Head of Agribusiness, Colin Mansbridge

The debate around Mycoplasma Bovis currently focusses on the efficacy of the eradication programme and whether the costs of the program will outweigh the benefits. Not long ago the dialogue was about the emotional stress of farmers watching their whole herds being slaughtered, some with generations of genetic improvement invested in them.

It’s important that we continue to respond with agility and understanding and therefore BNZ Agribusiness Partners are empowered to do what’s right for their customers. We’ve also wanted to understand overall preparedness differences between farmers. That’s one of the reasons why we recently set up a survey that included almost 750 BNZ Agribusiness customers, asking them about their preparedness for new biosecurity threats and other potentially transformative change.

Concerns of survey respondents

In the survey, biosecurity indeed rated as the main concern. And in all cases farmers expected the key issues, biosecurity, limits on nutrient inputs, limits on land use, limits on water sourcing capacity and restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions to be of a greater concern to them in five years than they are today.

Here’s a few other things that stood out in the survey results:

How can our international reputation influence local views

Perceived view of consumers in New Zealand and internationally on different matters

A strength for NZ producers is our international reputation, the excellence of which surpasses the views of local consumers. Across the board, most producers felt their products were better regarded offshore than they are in New Zealand in respect of being naturally produced, GMO free and ethically produced.  If our producers can constructively embrace and address the local criticism, then maybe there’s potential for even more international benefits from the high standards set.

Get educated, get informed and get strategic

If you knew a drought was going to arrive in five years’ time, would you do something about it today? Would you make sure your business was resilient to that circumstance? Of course you would. Yet, despite 74% of farmers expecting their business to be affected by limits arising from regulations surrounding greenhouse gas emissions – within 5 years – we see very few budgets or business plans with this issue taken into account. Producers appear most concerned about the things that are affecting them today and planning less for the things that are affecting them in the future.

Through relationships we have with our tertiary institutions, processors and industry groups we know that they are thinking about and planning for the future. But there is also an opportunity at the farmer level. Remember this survey was across most groups and not limited to one sector.

We do know that a ‘metaphorical’ drought’ is going to arrive within the next 5 years. We are going to be faced with another biosecurity event, some weather extreme, social pressure around the way we farm or even a trade war. Leaving it all up to our leaders isn’t the right approach. It’s important to get off the dance floor and onto the balcony, looking at your business and thinking about your strategy for the future.

Connect with good people and be ready

Industry groups offer exceptional support and material to help people become better informed about their possibilities and how to approach the strategic thinking required for a farming business. Beef & Lamb, DairyNZ, Hort NZ and various other groups do an exceptional job of education.

Mycoplasma Bovis is one of New Zealand’s largest biosecurity events ever and has thrown up significant challenges. As a bank, we’ve responded on a case-by-case basis with solutions such as bridging finance to assist with herd replacement. We’ve introduced qualified and reputable advisers to assist in the claims management process and sponsored NZ’s Resilient Farmer®, Doug Avery, to speak with individuals and communities as they cope with the stress throughout the process.

If you are going to ‘get off the dance floor’, make sure to get around people who help you in that space. I hear from many individuals how much impact Doug has had on their mindset. In the same way there are people who can help you develop perspective on the things that are happening in your business now and into the future.

Learn more about BNZ’s dedicated Agribusiness team