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Rural New Zealand : what next?

Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit
Discussion Paper
Fields of Research
This book is about what might lie ahead for rural New Zealand - its people, its resources and its institutions. In discussing issues and events surrounding people who produce, process and market New Zealand's food and fibre products, it outlines many of the choices presented by the future. The book begins with a brief discussion of the macro forces influencing New Zealand's rural areas, emphasising that their future course, largely influenced by international considerations, will also be increasingly impacted by domestic non farm policies and actions initiated, in main, by urban residents. Whether directly or indirectly, these forces will affect the costs and productivity of all farms, processing, distribution and food retailing firms. The second section reviews the farm production and technology base. It describes the complex relationships between producer, agribusiness, consumer, Government and environmental interests within the system. In the same way as agriculture is, itself, affected by larger forces, it affects other parts of the economy. When farm incomes slip, less fertiliser and machinery is purchased. This reduces incomes of farm suppliers who live in rural areas. When unemployment in a rural community occurs it, in turn, affects other facets of rural living. It can lead to reduced public services, notably education and health, cause changes in the attitude of rural people towards people living in cities and positions of public power; and exert negative domino effects on other rural communities. The continuous systematic weaving of research, information and analysis is pointed out to be crucial to any successful rural business or community. The changing patterns of farm size and ownership, types of farms, the farm people themselves, and the rural workforce are shown as reflecting much of this weaving and communication of ideas. The use of farm capital and how the rural sector avails itself of credit underscores thoughts on the increasing competition for natural resources by farmers and non farmers alike. A third section reviews the demand for food and fibre, dealing with domestic demand, international trade and international relations. A fourth section surveys the structure of agriculture, adding to what has already been said about farms and farm income. The agribusiness component is presented in order to create increased awareness of its structure, conduct and performance. A picture of the markets is offered in section five to show what specific markets do, how they behave, and what changes the future might hold for them. The wholesale and retail food situation, advertising and promotion, are presented to show that ultimately the food and fibre system is consumer driven not producer directed as so many farmers now believe. The role of producer boards is examined in details, and options to them are presented. A sixth section covers the role that Government plays in facilitating New Zealand's agricultural politics and policy. What are the politics of agriculture and intervention? Is regulation always useful, or are there times when it actually retards economic and social advance? These questions are again analysed from domestic and international perspectives; again contrasting views are presented. One author presents an argument for going back, while others question not only the basis of this thesis but also the effects of the fortress New Zealand approach. A final section outlines some of the other major emerging or persisting issues confronting rural areas in the decade ahead: the importance, and difficulties, of trying to differentiate an agricultural product; the rise of an active rural feminine consciousness concerning effective equality of participation; property rights issues with a focus on Maori and pakeha concerns about land and fishing; the important role of personal values in planning and executing land and water use programmes; the long run effectiveness of currently in vogue user pay programmes; and whether or not separate policies to resolve the many concerns of rural New Zealand should be considered. This discussion paper includes the full text of the following papers: Gary Hawke, Overview of NZ Agriculture; Brian Easton, Agriculture in NZ Economy; Alastair McArthur, Innovation, Information and Communication; John Fairweather, Farm Size and Population; Rupert Tipples, Rural Work Force; John Pryde, Capital and Agriculture; Chris Kerr, Competition for Resources; Bill Schroder, Food and Fibre Consumers; Ralph Lattimore, Trade Relations: Coming of Age; Bruce Ross, Development of the Agricultural Industry; Gerald Frengley, Farming Enterprises; Tim Wallace, Farm Income and Policy; Roger Juchau and Derek Newman, New Zealand's Agribusiness; Wayne Cartwright, The Structure of Markets; Rod Brodie and Andy van Ameyde, Advertising and Promotion; Allan Rae, The Case for Producer Control; Tony Zwart and Sandra Martin, Options to Producer Control; John Kneebone Robin, Politics and Agriculture; Robin Johnson, Government and the Farmer; Tony Rayner, Regulation; Wolfgang Rosenberg, Let's Return to the 1950s; John Pryde, Farmer Politics; Ralph Lattimore, What Course New Zealand's Tariff Policy; Tony Lewis, Can Farmers Market?; Robyn Grigg, A Woman Farmer's Perspective; Ron Sandrey, Maori and Pakeha: Land and Fisheries; John Hayward, Personal Values in Land and Water Use; Tim Wallace, Do We Need a Rural Policy?; Geoff Butcher, User Pays Revisited; Tim Wallace and Ralph Lattimore, Tough Decisions Ahead.