New report shines light on farmers' growing anxiety as thousands attend Fieldays

A reinvigorated Fieldays kicked off in Hamilton today.

After years of COVID disruptions, 140,000 people are expected through the gates of Mystery Creek this week.

But it comes as a report finds high levels of anxiety in farmers and growers - with carbon emissions, interest rates and red tape among their biggest concerns.

"Concerns about climate, concerns about cost, concerns about prices, interest rates, regulation, the whole suite of things and people are losing hope," KPMG global head of agribusiness Ian Proudfoot said.

Whether it's farmers or forestry, fencers or growers of our fruit and produce, those flocking to Fieldays this year echoed that sentiment.  

"It's going to destroy farming if it carries on this way, it's getting prohibitive," one attendee said.

"Farmers are getting hit big time," said another.

"We seem to be inundated with bureaucracy and then the weather comes along and whacks you in the head as well. It's all too much for a lot of farmers," a third said.

KPMG's annual agribusiness report found events like Cyclone Gabrielle highlighted a food and fibre sector that lacks resilience and may need to pivot.

"We have a group of leaders talking about the opportunities; they are excited and energised about the future. However, many are unconverted, lacking confidence that there is a brighter future for the sector beyond the change they are required to make in their businesses," Proudfoot said in a statement.

The report said farmers and growers rate biosecurity as their biggest priority. Quality trade agreements like the one just signed with the UK are also up there, as well as enhanced immigration and the need to act on innovations like gene editing. 

"The tech has changed, the world has changed. If we don't use them, we hold ourselves back," Proudfoot said.

"We will continue to move forward cautiously, I think we need to be careful we don't open ourselves up to too much risk," Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said.

Buddying up with the primary sector to tackle climate change in the form of He Waka Eke Noa is still not a done deal but the Prime Minister is hopeful it will be after he meets sector leaders.

"I'm meeting with them tomorrow so we will give you another update after that," Hipkins said.

The Government on Wednesday announced a raft of measures to help farmers reduce their carbon emissions including $17.7 million for a new greenhouse gas testing and research facility and $4.3 million for a faster hybrid breeding of ryegrass to increase pasture resilience.

However, Hipkins ruled out a tax on fertiliser, which has attracted criticism from the agricultural sector.

"I can confirm today that the Government will not be implementing a fertiliser tax," he said.

With successive Governments continuing to pull on the purse strings, farmers said tackling red tape is crucial if future generations are to flourish.