Why did New Zealand Farmers Drive their Tractors into the Cities?
Updated: Jul 22, 2021
In a land where produce prices are good, and there is no covid, the most extraordinary thing has happened. New Zealand farmers, in their thousands, have driven their tractors into the towns and cities , creating traffic jams - sometimes 20 kilometres long - throughout New Zealand.
“The main thing is, we have too many Regulations” said Farmer Bryce McKenzie and Organizer of the Farmers Protest.
Producers are subject to an increasing number of regulations and compliance audits to meet local and global standards.
Audits are often conducted by different auditors, using different, disconnected, audit systems. An inefficient process designed last century, requiring manual entry, on site visits, and asking the same questions over and over again. It’s a process that suits the auditors - who are in the business of selling their time - but doesn’t suit the farmer, who in the end pays for the audit.
Food safety, land, water, environment, carbon, labour, animal, pastoral, organic, and halal require audits.
Global buyers like Walmart, Tesco, Nestle, and Unilever have their own requirements.
Countries like the European Union, USA, and China, seek specific assurance.
And then local buyers, ministries and councils have local requirements.
Different auditors, expert in different schemes, are required to visit the producers. They ask the same questions, request the same evidence, and seek corrective action. Talk to any producer, and they are tired of having yet another auditor visit, using valuable time to ask the same questions, when all they want is to get on with good production.
And so, when the NZ Government and the local councils imposed further regulations, it became too much.
What’s the Solution?
All interested parties are essentially seeking the same thing - safe food, produced using sustainable practices. To reduce the cost and complexity of everyone’s interests we need to do 3 things:
1. Do it Once and Share it: It is now possible to share access to audit information using cloud platforms, thereby reducing duplication, cost and time. For example, the auditor for one scheme could review the evidence and conclusions of the auditor on the same topic for another scheme, and the evidence offered for an international requirement, could be reviewed for a local requirement.
2. Harvest Data: More and more producers will employ devices to get data from the animals, plants, soil, and waterways, to monitor and benchmark results. Drones, wireless, fit-bits and chips of all sorts will become standard to improve productivity. This data can provide auditors with assurances or verification, without wasting farmer time. Why would there need to be an audit of water or soil care practices, if quality has been measured through hard data, and has improved over the last 3 years?
3. Use Smartphones: Date and GPS stamped digital photographs and video interviews can be used to record evidence and provide a reduced need to actually spend time on site. Then, audit resource can be targeted at the areas that have the greatest need for onsite verification.
Reducing the ‘red-tape burden’ on the producer does not mean reducing the standards of food safety and sustainable farm practices. It just means that we need to be smarter about how we go about this.
And being smart means just using the digital tools most of us are using in everyday life.
Most of us use cloud platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook. A lot of us use databases like Expedia or Lonely Planet to read customer satisfaction scores and assure ourselves of the holiday accommodation we are booking. We also take selfies and digital pictures as evidence of our journeys, and share them with our friends.
Applying these same technologies will reduce the burden on the producers, and better still, add real value to their lives - as audit is turned into knowledge.