Federated Farmers – Withdraw that press release

A strange piece written by Federated Farmers appeared on infonews just now. It’s aimed at influencing those observing the free trade negotiation happening in Melbourne.

It starts out tough:

Federated Farmers believes American dairy farmers have nothing to fear but fear itself, if New Zealand and United States enter into a free trade agreement.

1: Now that’s a pretty challenging thing to say – it reeks of “go on – I dare you”

American dairy farmers need to get with the program that free trade will make them more competitive.

2: That’s an incredibly aggressive thing to say – If you have you ever been told to “get with the program” how did it feel?

We’re a little island in the bottom of the Pacific and America’s scared of us. It seems a bit strange.

3: This is a taunt – like the little guy in the schoolyard saying to the big guy “are you scared of me?” – with predictable results.

“I think they’re threatened by how efficient our dairy farmers are.

4: This means “we are better than you” and “I’m scaring you” – again it’s schoolyard stuff and it is doubly insulting as the USA farms are often huge and incredibly productive. They do, after all, produce four times the amount of milk that NZ does.

“They find it very hard to understand that farmers here can work without any subsidies while they cost the average American family US$322 every year at the checkout.

5: This is more taunting – and a swipe at the subsidies. Subsidies are politically untouchable in the USA – and the last people that want to hear about their potential removal are farmers, while the last people they want to hear about it from are farmers from overseas.

“It’s sad that the dairy farm lobby cannot see that these subsidies are not helping them and that protectionism is not the way forward.

6: It’s more sad that the Federated Farmers can’t see that subsidies are literally money in the bank for US farmers, and that Federated Farmers themselves squealed when NZ’s SMPs were removed in the 1980s.

“While many of America’s dairy farmers are hooked on a subsidy drug”

7: This is just abusive. Calling American farmers addicts is simply inflammatory – and will elicit a unified and tough response from those abused.

we’re seeing the emergence of an enlightened group of dairy farmers who realise dairy subsidies are completely unsustainable. They’re the people we want to do business with.

8: If those people have read the rest of this article then they are going to be pretty unhappy – “unenlightened” in fact.

“America may be the land of the free, but their dairy market is anything but,” concluded Mr McKenzie.

9: And a final bit of abuse against America. That’s just not the way to do business in the USA – which is an incredible place if you can get it right.

Let me suggest an alternative positioning for the New Zealand Dairy industry (and country) to make to the USA farmers:

Proposed Positioning for NZ Dairy Farmers to the USA

1: American consumers are demanding an increasing amount and variety of milk products.

2: Farmers in the United States produce 79 billion tonnes of milk each year.  New Zealand farmers produce 17 billion tonnes each year, all of which is either consumed in New Zealand or exported to existing customers abroad.

3: New Zealand milk products are aimed at the top end of the market for consumers that prefer a higher fat milk.

4: New Zealand producers, while they are paid no subsidies, are requesting open access to the US market only. They are not lobbying for the removal of farming subsidies in the USA.

5: Open access to the US market will allow US farmers to invest in the NZ industry and vice versa, merging the best practices from each country, increasing product ranges and profitability for the industries in each country.

Published by Lance Wiggs


10 replies on “Federated Farmers – Withdraw that press release”

  1. Lance – around the time of the Mackenzie factory farms debate, I had a bit of dialogue with Fed Farms. At the time I was absolutely stunned by the amateur way they went around their lobbying operations – I thought that maybe that was an outlier, now it seems I’m wrong.

    Fed Farms seems to be working in a time and context warp where being a farmer gives you some kind of divine right to throw your weight around. This is not a rugby paddock guys, this is the hyper-sensitive world of international relations and your archaic approach will do significantly more harm than good….


  2. Have you tried getting in touch with the CE at the Feds directly rather than debating these points publically and offering your assistance?

    that to me would seem more productive for nz.inc



    1. Maybe I should have done that.

      By making it public I’m hoping that the folks at Federated Farmers will actually take notice.

      They are of course welcome to call – but there are plenty of other professional firms and consultants that can help.

      I suggest, if they have not already, that they retain a DC based lobbyist, and that they make a real effort to understand and work with the USA farmers, their lobby and the various legislators and government agencies.

      A stakeholders analysis would not go amiss, and some professional help crafting an approach to change policy.

      While it’s all work I’ve done before for US firms while I lived there, there are others that are far more experienced at it than me.


  3. Good analysis Lance

    I’m continually surprised that an organisation like Federated Farmers, dedicated to helping NZ farmers, can put out such poorly crafted messages that do more harm than good.

    While they don’t represent all farmers (by a long shot) Federated Farmers certainly have the loudest voice. They have the means to get good comms advice; I just don’t know why they persist with their “shoot from the hip” strategy of dealing with issues.

    Surely it’s time for them to lift their game for the sake of all farmers?


  4. Lance,

    Have a look at this from a group of US Senators, including John Kerry, who is now the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.


    “Because of the anti-competitive practices in New Zealand’s dairy industry and the extensive degree of control it wields over world dairy markets to the detriment of the U.S. dairy industry, we are deeply concerned that an expansion of U.S.-New Zealand dairy trade would further open the U.S. to these imports while providing little additional market for American farmers in New Zealand and the other Pacific countries. This prospect is particularly troubling given the record low dairy prices American farmers have faced since late 2008 and the need for our dairy industry to rebuild export markets to help remedy the harm caused by these low prices. As you proceed with negotiations, we ask that you carefully consider and discuss with us how best to address within the TPP this unique threat posing such great potential harm to the future viability of America’s dairy industry.”

    I think the Federated Farmers’ comments are not out of line and I’m sure they knew this was coming. It’s not out of line with previous efforts.

    I think we should avoid a FTA with the US. We will get monstered by the US lobbyists on dairying, pharma (we’d be lucky to keep Pharmac) and the usual Section 92a, three strikes, ACTA stuff on copyright.



  5. And here’s what the US National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) said on December 17.


    “In a letter sent today to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) reaffirmed their commitment to seek full exclusion of trade in dairy products between the United States and New Zealand under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement, because of the New Zealand dairy industry’s unique structure and excessive degree of control over dairy markets globally and in the United States.”

    If you think our farmers are nuts, have a look at the Americans.



  6. One final thing

    The US dairy industry spent US$4.8 million lobbying Congress in 2008, more than double what it spent 10 years earlier.


    The biggest lobbyist was Dairy Farmers of America, which has a 50/50 joint venture with Fonterra….

    I don’t think we should treat the Americans with kid gloves. They deserve everything they get. They won’t play nice with us.

    Just ask the Australian beef and sugar farmers what they think of the Australian FTA with America. They got done over. Best to think of any FTA as a TA (Trade Agreement). There will be little free about it.



  7. Good post. I agree with Fed Farmers position, but this sort of thing will get them nowhere.

    I noticed a similar thing from Fed Farmers a while ago in this article:


    The article is trying to compare the waterview motorway project with a potential water storage project in the Canterbury. He takes the stance that a water storage project will grow more grass and therefore be beneficial, whereas a motorway causes no more grass to grow therefore it wont have any true benefit to productivity.

    Anyway the way he comes across will just get a city dweller’s back up, and will not win anyone over.

    Perhaps they need a new CE


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