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Agriculture ministers on national woolshed tour

The Coalition Government’s agriculture ministers visited Wairarapa yesterday on the first stop of what is set to be a national tour.

Called the ‘woolshed roadshow’, the 19-leg tour is scheduled to take in places from the bottom of the North Island to Kerikeri, starting with yesterday’s Masterton visit. More destinations on the tour are expected to be added, including the South Island.

Agriculture Minister Todd McClay said the farming sector had been through a tough few years dealing with high interest rates, adverse weather events, and increased costs.

He met with students at Rathkeale College where he took part in a shearing demonstration with the Class of the Colleges team and the winners of the North Island annual clash of the colleges shearing championship.

McClay also met with local farmers at John and Helen McFadzen’s woolshed where they discussed current challenges in the red meat sector, the recent drought declaration and additional support made available to farmers through rural support trust. Plans to revitalise the wool industry were also on the agenda.

“The immediate priority for the government is relieving the pressure that farmers have been feeling coming from the unworkable central government policies. That is why we are getting out on the road to hear directly from farmers,” he said.

“The sector makes a critically important contribution to the fabric of our rural and regional communities. New Zealand’s food and fibre sector is the backbone of our economy, contributing over 80 per cent of our goods exports to feed an estimated 40 million people worldwide. A strong and thriving agricultural sector is crucial to the New Zealand economy,”

Associate Agriculture Minister Andrew Hoggard said a priority was addressing unworkable and overly prescriptive regulation so that farmers could focus on being the most efficient food and fibre producers in the world.

“These meetings will be a great opportunity to talk directly with farmers about issues affecting them the most. I understand the importance of listening and staying connected to rural communities, as it helps government determine the direction of travel,” he said.

Associate Agriculture and Rural Communities Minister Mark Patterson said that as Minister responsible for wool, he was working with farmers to rebuild the industry into a stronger and more resilient industry. He said sheep farmers faced a particularly difficult time with a large local supply of Australian lamb driving prices down.

“It has been a tough season for farmers, so we will be engaging with people from Northland to Southland meeting in woolsheds to discuss grassroots solutions,” he said.

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