When people in the United States and Europe think about New Zealand at all, a few notions usually pop into their heads: Our islands are far away, they’re pristine, and they’re the visually stunning backdrops to movies such as “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.”

We also have the best rugby team in the world, though the Americans don’t care and the Europeans won’t admit it.

Despite the vast distance between us and just about everybody else, New Zealand is not isolated. We’re tightly tied to the global economy. Farmers like me are especially connected because our government doesn’t subsidize agriculture.

That makes us different from farmers in many other countries, where subsidies are routine. Yet at a basic level, we’re a lot like farmers in Indiana, Italy, or just about anywhere. We recognize that the land is our lifeblood–and we want to use modern technology to produce food.

 

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This became clear to me on a trip to the United States last year, when I participated in the Truth About Trade & Technology Global Farmer Roundtable in Des Moines, Iowa. A few of my fellow farmers introduced me to a new term: “sustainable intensification.” In two words, it describes what should be the goal of farmers around the planet: We need to grow more with less, while at the same time preserving the environment and remaining economically profitable.

We’re trying to do our part here in New Zealand, at our farm near the town of Methven on the South Island. On several hundred acres, we grow a variety of crops, including wheat, ryegrass, radish, carrots, and barley. We also run a dairy operation milking 1,250 cows.

We’re under constant pressure to do more with less. The economic reality of being fully exposed to global markets due to the lack of subsidies forces me to keep down the costs of production. Policy changes are increasingly limiting our water use and nitrate outputs, which affects our ability to apply fertilizer and the stocking rate on the land. We are always trying to grow the best crops at the right time in the face of climate conditions.