Dairy cows graze on a farm near Oxford, New Zealand, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018.New Zealand exports 95 percent of it's dairy products making it the largest goods export sector worth $9 billion a year. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

False Ardern dairy quote milked for all its worth

AAP FactCheck September 30, 2020

The Statement

A Facebook meme features a purported quote by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern which reads, “Dairy farming is a world of the past.”

The meme, posted to a pro-National Facebook page, features a photo of Ms Ardern alongside the comment: “#BREAKING Labour will never support our farmers.”

The September 22 post had attracted more than 1400 comments, 1900 reactions and 920 shares at the time of writing.

A Facebook post
 A Facebook meme features a purported quote by NZ PM Jacinda Ardern on dairy farming. 

The Analysis

The meme misquotes the New Zealand prime minister and makes a point about dairy farming that Jacinda Ardern never addressed during the televised leaders’ debate between her and National leader Judith Collins on September 22.

Despite the quote’s inaccuracies being reported by the media following the leadership debate, several National MPs also shared it on their Facebook pages.

AAP FactCheck found that minutes before the meme was posted on the National Party’s Meme Working Group Facebook page, the National Party’s official Twitter account tweeted: “Did…. did @jacindaardern just say that the world of farming is in the past? Outrageous. Our Farmers are 64% more emissions efficient than the global average. Our farmers are already the most emissions efficient producers of milk in the world. #LeadersDebate #YourFuture.”

AAP FactCheck examined the section of the debate from which the purported quote was taken. In this video of the debate (mark 1hr 22min 24sec), Ms Ardern says: “If I may, that feels to me like the view of a world that has passed.” Dairy farming is not mentioned in the prime minister’s statement.

To understand the quote’s context, Ms Ardern’s initial statement (mark 1hr 21min 15sec) was: “But on the issue of change that we are all facing in New Zealand, I absolutely accept that when we are looking at what our export markets are seeking now, they want to know that you are, that we are, producing our food sustainably, that we’re mindful of climate change, biodiversity, and water quality. And that creates pressure on all of us.

“My view is that we’ve got to do this together. The work we’ve done this year has been by building consensus – a historic agreement called He Waka Eke Noa is all about how we as New Zealand, alongside our farmers, will face our climate challenges. And I am so proud of that, because we did that alongside our farmers and primary producers.”

He Waka Eke Noa is the name of the partnership agreement between the NZ government, the primary sector and Maori industry leaders to reduce emissions in the farming sector.

The backdrop of Ms Ardern’s comment was a point about consensus between the primary sector and government, and how the government had worked alongside farmers and primary producers on issues such as climate change and biodiversity.

Ms Collins understood the point but disagreed with its premise (mark 1hr 21min 55sec): “Actually farmers aren’t feeling like that, John (Campbell, debate moderator). Farmers are feeling like they’re bagged all the time by this government. Remember ‘dirty dairying’? That was the Greens and Labour going into that.

“You know, John, when I grew up being a dairy farmer’s kid I was so proud, I was proud as punch. And now I’ve got dairy farmers saying to me, young dairy farmers, saying ‘I’m only a dairy farmer’. Because they feel that they have got the weight of the world on them.”

It was at that point Ms Ardern responded with her comment, “If I may, that feels to me like the view of a world that has passed.” She continued by saying she met with primary producers and they “absolutely see the need for us to be competitive in this environment” before referencing climate change and sustainability.

AAP FactCheck contacted National MPs Harete Hipango and Matt King for comment regarding their sharing of the meme but received no reply. However, Ms Collins reportedly refused to criticise the pair for the posts, saying the MPs were “genuinely reflecting what they believe”.

The reposting of the meme on Ms Hipango’s Facebook page had been shared 89 times, attracting more than 400 comments and 200 reactions at the time of writing. The post on Mr King’s Facebook page, which included the caption “unbelieveable from the Labour leader tonight”, had been shared 49 times, attracting 294 comments and 300 reactions.

Dairy cows graze on a farm near Oxford, New Zealand
The Facebook post misquotes Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on dairy farming in New Zealand. 

The Verdict

The Facebook meme misquotes and misrepresents the New Zealand prime minister’s comments during the leaders’ debate on September 22. It is not a direct quote and it falsely credits Jacinda Ardern with saying that dairy farming was a world of the past.

False – The primary claim within this Facebook post is inaccurate.

* AAP FactCheck is accredited by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network, which promotes best practice through a stringent and transparent Code of Principles. https://aap.com.au/

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