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KPMG Pulls The Blinds 

KPMG have a great deal invested in this country's farming industry, and its actions to close it's annual Fielddays Breakfast to the media (see this article in today's Herald) should raise a few eyebrows both within and outside Government.

It has traditionally been open to the media on a 'non-reporting basis,' though clearly media have had a responsibility to report any major shifts in Government policy that may be announced through the regular address provided by the Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister (Damian O'Connor) - his office says that his address will be made available regardless. Regional DFevelopment Minister Shane Jones who will also speak says that he has "not written a speech" - a typically cavalier approach that he seems able to get away with with impunity. 

120 industry leaders have been invited, and KPMG head of agribusiness - Ian Proudfoot, says that they have indicated that they have previously "felt constrained from asking questions or making points." It seems that courage may be lacking in this group who generally are not backward in coming forward with their views on every subject - particularly those that reflect on any aspect of their potential incomes. 

What I find concerning is that with agriculture generally, and dairying in particular coming under attack from all sides for practices and attitudes concerning conversions and intensification that have greatly contributed to their own parlous state are simply in a state of denial. This has resulted in blame being directed at government departments for biosecurity failure, and total amnesia regarding illicit stock trading practices. And these are but two - there are many others.

What many in the farming industry don't want is open discussion about where fault lies. Once upon a time it was claimed that the country existed "on the sheep's back." Now the widespread claim within the dairy industry is that it is the "backbone of the economy." Well that situation may be coming to an end, and far sooner than many are prepared to acknowledge.

The now inevitable change to share-milking practices, long the mainstay of the industry, will have a devastating effect on the lives of thousands of prospective small to medium scale farmers as they move through the stock, land ownership ladder. But more importantly, the ceasing, if not reversal of intensification practices will will inevitably become a fact of life. The dream of eternal growth in the industry will be shattered.

Where we go from here is certainly problematic, but a retreat from dairying into alternative cropping and horticulture seems inevitable.  It may be a hard pill to swallow, but there may well be drop overall in the standard of  living generally in this country, and a hit on this Government's generous new social programs.

There are many in the farming industry who, even reluctantly accept this fact of life, but in the meantime, we as mere spectators in this state of affairs are entitled to know what its leaders are thinking. More particularly because whenever disaster occurs, whether it be in kiwifruit or dairying sectors, we are expected, through our taxes, to front up and fund the recovery process. $850m on Mico-plasma bovis  is no small 'bikkies,' and no matter the cause, it is the taxpayer who is always prevailed on when 'the proverbial hits the wall.'

It is therefore incumbent on every section of the industry to encourage transparency - KPMG in particular, being a major beneficiary in the Government's remarkably generous consultancy stakes. It's reluctance to open what is one of the major farming forums, that it sponsors, to public scrutiny is a 'cop-out,' even as it claims to be "responding to feedback" - so what!




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