Last week saw the official establishment of the Hawke’s Bay Future Farming Trust.

Here is the mission given to the Trust by its farmer-led establishment group …

“Society today is challenging the environmental cost and impact of producing food. Public concerns include the degradation and loss of our soil and water resources, food safety and soil nutrition, animal welfare and agriculture’s contribution to climate change.

A failure to respond to these issues at scale will guarantee a loss of confidence in NZ’s food sector by both the community at large and individual consumers, leading to increased regulatory intervention and consumers migrating to alternative food producers and products.

Farming needs to address these public concerns while also contending with on farm production, compliance and cost issues that impact on business viability.”

“Food producers will respond, we believe, by embracing practises or systems that lower food’s environmental footprint, and in fact restore soil health, landscape function and water quality, while improving on-farm resilience, productivity and profitability.

The Future Farming Initiative aims to help farmers find those solutions and ensure they are persistently presented with the best available and relevant options for navigating this changing and more demanding environment.”

“Our ambition is to make Hawke’s Bay’s farming the pride of our entire community. To shine a light on our region’s existing and emerging expertise and create a local hub of knowledge, research, education and opportunity for profitable and resilient farming that ensures the health of the region’s soil and water, communities and farmers into the future.

Ongoing success will be indicated by measurable improvement in farm performance (environmentally and financially), enthusiastic acceptance of our food products by domestic and overseas consumers, and the pride our community demonstrates for its farming sector.”

I instigated this intiative five years ago prior to becoming a regional councillor, and have championed it ever since. It took a ‘regime change’ at HBRC in 2016 to get this proposal over the line and into the Council’s Long Term Plan, with decent start-up funding.

Last week I was proud to be selected unanimously by my fellow councillors to serve as the HBRC representative on the 9-person Trust on an interim basis. The Trust Board is broadly representative of the sector and will be announced soon.

My ‘interim’ appointment reflects that we do have an election coming up that I must win if I wish to be appointed for the full next triennium.

I will do my best to achieve that! This is a hugely important initiative for HB’s food producing sector … full of positive opportunities to demonstrate that, here in HB, we know how to farm and grow stuff sustainably AND profitably.

Tom Belford

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