Contractors Corner Dec 2016

Contractors Corner Dec 2016
Looking forward with optimism and enthusiasm
Steve Levet
Firstly, I'd like to extend my thoughts and best wishes to the people in Marlborough and North Canterbury after the earthquakes that hit those regions over the past month or so.
I'm sure we hope that all our affected farming and contracting colleagues can get through what will be tough and challenging times in the months ahead; as the clean-up and recovery begins.
Meanwhile, it is time to again reflect on the year that has been and plan for the new year ahead. I think we can all look forward to 2017 with a bit more of a sense of optimism and enthusiasm.

To sum up the last 12 months though, it has been tough. There's no doubt 2016 has been another challenging year for those of us in the agricultural contacting sector.
We've had cold, wet weather in some parts of the country and hot, dry conditions in others. Dairy prices hit the bottom, sheepmeat returns have remained static at best and beef prices have come off record highs.
However, I think we can look forward to 2017 with some optimism. No doubt the lift in the forecast dairy payout to $6 – and with hopes of even more upsides yet – this will be a great fillip both the rural and the country's economy. Looking ahead, the very wet recent weather has the potential to send the milk price higher yet.
Meanwhile, according to the latest Rabobank rural confidence survey, overall farmer confidence in the broader agricultural economy remains at high levels. Of course, expectations are lower for sheep and beef farmers, but both dairy farmers and horticulturalists outlooks for their own businesses are on the up. The report also says farmer investment intentions are at their highest level since late 2014. There is also talk about an improvement in lamb prices in some markets, with the UK been an exception. So, the outlook in many sectors for next year is quite positive.
However, there is very little we as contractors or farmers can do about the climate, international commodity prices or business expectations. All any of us can do is face these issues as they are and do the best we can. I am constantly amazed at the adaptability and resilience of the contractors and farmers I meet and their ability to get on with things as the best they can.
However, while there is little we as contractors and/or farmers can do about the weather or commodity prices; we can certainly control how we look after each other at work to ensure we keep safe and well.
As we head into the busy season, it is timely to ensure that ourselves and our staff are reminded about using machinery properly and safely. Many of us or our staff are likely to be working alone at busy times, so having a plan in place for lone workers means if anything goes wrong the alarm can be raised.
We all should have a risk management plan in place. This doesn't have to be overly complicated, but there must be one and it needs to be well understood by all the people who are involved in your business.
It is far better to spend a little bit of time getting everyone up to speed on safety plans and machine maintenance – especially with the busy season upon us – than having to deal with the emotional and other huge costs if something does go wrong.
As this will be my last column for the year, I would like to wish all rural contractors and their families around the country a safe, happy and prosperous festive season. Let's hope that 2017 brings good weather, improving commodity prices and plenty of rural contracting work.
Wellsford-based agricultural contractor Steve Levet is the president of the Rural Contractors New Zealand (RCNZ).

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