Why do the taxpayers own farms?

I’m waiting for the howls of outrage from the Labour party over the performance of Landcorp.

Landcorp has recorded a net profit after tax of $11.5 million, largely thanks to a $7.4m profit on land sales.

The state-owned enterprise, which Finance Minister Bill English earlier this year described as a “poor investment” although the Government had no intention to sell it off, reported a net operating loss of $9.4m on revenue of $209m for the year ended June 30, 2016.

For the second year in a row it will not pay a dividend to the Government.

Landcorp chief executive Steven Carden said the result reflected higher livestock valuations, a $7.4m profit on land sales,and lower milk revenue. Milk revenue had dropped $12.9m as the payout fell to its lowest level for 10 years.

They will no doubt blame the minister for a shabby performance.

But, you have to ask why it is that the taxpayer owns farms in the first place?

Green spokeswoman for Primary Industries Eugenie Sage said the result underlined the wisdom of diversifying away from commodities.

If agriculture was covered by the emissions trading scheme, it was likely some of Landcorp’s land would be best planted in forestry, she said.

Perhaps diversification by selling it off would work better.

Farming is a high-risk business prone to the vagaries of weather and international markets. Labour, of course, believes that once the government owns something it should be kept in public ownership beyond the assets useful life or purpose.

Meanwhile, the red ink flows and the government gets nothing for its “investment”.

Time to swing the axe, I’d start with Landcorp, then RadioNZ and TVNZ.



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