Jacqui Hahn is nearing the end of her threeyear role as Federated Farmers chairperson in the Waikato with feelings of both frustration and optimism. While she’s seen progress, time and time again she’s also seen bureaucracy get in the way.
“The process of how policies are set at a governmental level need to be a lot more driven by the sector with more interaction from farmers. Regional council mindsets are changing as they see sciencebased proof that what farmers are doing is working. I believe the answers to the problems we are facing are there and farmers are an important part of finding the solutions.”
Jacqui and Danish husband Sofus farm 1400 crossbred cows across four dairy units in Rangitoto and Benneydale.
As a farmer herself, Jacqui stresses the importance of farmers making their views heard. “When you’re on the ground you can see problems and what needs to change.
If you’re someone who thinks they don’t fit in with Federated Farmers’ view I say it is even more important that you come on board. I came on board for that reason myself. I didn’t like how things were going and I have worked to help change that.
“A different view always adds something and helps make a better decision in the end. If you want your voice heard, get involved. It’s important that Federated Farmers has many different farmers from many different walks of life.”
In typical style Jacqui says she likes to put forward contentious opinions. She feels this helps promote discussion and debate.
For example at the Fertiliser & Lime Research Centre conference recently she put the question to Ravensdown and Ballance as to why they couldn’t work together to make their individual software compatible to make life easier for farmers trying to work out a farm environmental plan. “They say their focus is on helping their clients but is it really? It’s about seeing the bigger picture.”
She says this is symptomatic of the industry in general which often seeks to protect its own patch rather than work together to fi nd solutions for the overall good of the industry.
It’s something she’d like to see change with a more collaborative approach industry wide. “It does happen but it doesn’t happen consistently across the board,” she says.
“I am about being as open as possible. For example when I was on the TB Free committee it was endless meetings going over the same problems with nothing ever changing.
“That’s very frustrating to a farmer who is action based and wants to get things done. You can hit a governmental department that has its policies and rules and they don’t want to change. Sometimes you can see things will turn to custard but you are powerless to stop it.”
She hopes her new role will give her the ability to make a difference as she will have a bigger voice over the entire industry and is a step closer to where the big decisions are made.
So is being a woman in such a role more challenging? “If you see your sex as being something that restricts you then it will restrict you because it’s a mindset. If you refuse to think like that the sky’s the limit. It might be hard but you will get there.” She says she has no distinct goals for her new role.
“In the past 118 years as a trusted organisation along the path we’ve made mistakes but also real progress in how we work. We are now taking a more science based and pragmatic approach to finding solutions rather than the reactive approach we have taken in the past.
My aim is for a grassroots direction for the industry rather than a policy down direction. I think that is changing already and I am cautiously optimistic.”
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