Damien O'Connor on the biggest challenges facing New Zealand's agriculture sector

Damien O'Connor says one of the biggest issues facing the country's agriculture sector is the lack of workers coming into the industry.

O'Connor will find out later on Monday whether he will continue his role as Minister of Agriculture when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern unveils her new Cabinet. 

Speaking to Magic Talk's Rural Exchange over the weekend, O'Connor said he's hoping to stay in the position "but it's up to the boss" to decide, and "obviously she's got multiple factors to consider".

Ardern is holding a caucus meeting at 10:30am and will announce the new Cabinet at 1pm.

O'Connor told Rural Exchange Labour was "very respectful" of gaining a majority of votes in the recent general election.

"It is a huge mandate, and we'll work through that really, really careful," he said.

When asked what big agricultural issues need to be addressed by the Government immediately, O'Connor identified a lack of young workers coming into the sector and increased scrutiny of our farming systems.

"The ongoing challenge of attracting young people into agriculture at every level and into on-farm jobs, to training at polytechs and universities and into farm ownership - that's the big challenge for us," he said.

"We're really successful because of that passion and that commitment to land ownership. And we have to continue that, otherwise we may face a changing environment in farming and that may not deliver the same innovations.

"If we can get the right people with the right passion we'll do anything and adapt to what is an ever-changing world."

He also said the Government needed to plan more to deal with people having higher expectations of the agricultural industry.

"Scrutiny on our systems -  be it on our animal welfare, our labour standards, or our environmental management - that will increase as well, with blockchain, with phones, and cameras, all of that stuff, residue levels, people testing our food and making sure there's nothing they don't want in it. 

"These things put pressure on us in the future. We can do it, we can adapt, and we can get a premium for our products, but it's going to take a bit of planning."