North Otago Federated Farmers president Jared Ross. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

There’s no let-up for farmers during lockdown.

While the Level 4 lockdown was disruptive, with calves and lambs populating the paddocks, farmers were continuing to work through one of the busiest times of year, North Otago Federated Farmers president Jared Ross said.

“The time of year means most farmers – large scale, small scale, somewhere in between – are pretty well embedded in their own business world because it’s the grunt time of the season, for a lot of different reasons,” Mr Ross said.

Service providers had been “really good” at accommodating farmers’ needs and adhering to Level 4 rules.

“I think by and large in the rural scene, our service provision is really good and people are trying really hard.

“With the practice that we’ve had, everyone had themselves sort of half ready to go – it wasn’t like last time.”

At such a busy time of year, North Otago farms were facing some “key labour demands”, he said.

“There’ll be an awful lot of school kids doing a lot of farm work [during lockdown] .. I know there’s plenty on the job.”

But the labour shortage was also a real concern before lockdown, he said.

“It’s not one industry now, it’s across the board, and that’s whittling into town as well – whether it’s engineers, truck drivers, you name it – it’s not just someone to milk a cow now, it’s beyond that,” he said.

Frustrations were still boiling over increasing government regulations and costs.

“I’m just finding it’s really hard to strike someone who’s positive about where we’re heading.”

While commodity prices were good, the cost of business was increasing – and those costs would be passed on, Mr Ross said.

“Costs will increase. More regulations will cost money; it will cost us to do what we do to produce food and that will ultimately result in more cost for food.

“I think that’s a missing link in the conversation so far. There’s an expectation that things should just be better, but are people really prepared to pay for them?”

The mental health of farmers was a concern.

“It’s really difficult to see a way through,” he said.

“It’s actually got people questioning why they farm, why they’re interested … and that’s not good for the country at all.”

He was pleased to see the Canterbury Mayoral Forum, of which the Waitaki District Council is part, challenging the minister of local government to pause the Three Waters reform.

Canterbury Mayoral Forum chairman Sam Broughton said the forum had serious concerns about the decision-making timeframe.

It was crucial that communities were provided with enough time to engage meaningfully and genuinely with the process and better understand the implications of the proposals, Mr Broughton said.