Another year and, without a doubt, another new set of government and local body policies, rules, regulations and laws that will affect farmers.

The implementation of most of them will include a call for submissions and although we can rely on DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb and Federated Farmers to represent us, putting in individual submissions is always a good idea.

Not only does it involve you personally in the process, it also tells government and local bodies that farmers are individually concerned about new controls on how they farm and their future. Very simply, the more submissions there are, the louder the voice.

And it’s not as hard as it at first looks. Putting in a submission can take just minutes, not hours.

There is no right or wrong way to write a submission. What is important is that you find the right form online, or that you email it to right place, and by the deadline.

Some submissions are made on online forms, others are emails. Figure it out before you start.

Remember every submission is read. For local bodies it becomes a part of reports to councillors and for government it becomes part of departmental reports to Parliament so even if your submission is only one sentence it counts.

It doesn’t matter if you are the owner of the farm, the sharemilker, the 2IC or the relief milker, it counts.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a scientist with a PhD or an economics forecaster with a business degree from Harvard or someone who milks a thousand cows but never got School Cert, it counts.

So forget the self-doubt, forget being humble, forget thinking it will be fine, I don’t need to do this, everyone else is. Just do it.

Don’t worry about your spelling or your grammar or writing in paragraphs. It doesn’t matter. Get it as good as you can and send it. Government and local bodies need to know what you think, not whether you can spell.

And they do need to know. They are not asking for submissions just because consultation is part of the law.

Government policies are often written by people in Wellington who have probably never been on a dairy farm, never milked a cow, never run a business, never employed people, never planted a tree, never caught a fish from a river flowing through their farm.

So they need to know how you feel, what you think and what you know.

Write how the policy will affect you, your business, your family and your community.

Don’t worry about the big picture stuff – gdp, the exchange rate, global politics. Leave that to those who are experts on it.

Instead, concentrate on your business, your life – tell your story.

Give examples. If the policy is going to take money out of your business say how this will affect accessing schooling for your children, or healthcare, or going to the supermarket.

Will you have to let staff go? Will you have to lower pay rates? Will you no longer be able to take on relief staff so you will not have any days off for yourself and your partner and how will that affect your mental health?

Will you and your partner lose your jobs and the house which comes with it and both of you have been milking cows for the past 10 years so have no skills which can be transferred to other workplaces?

Say it if you sometimes feel like giving up.

Be honest. Don’t shy away from the hard stuff. Write it from the heart but write it from fact.

Don’t worry if you’re not writing in complete sentences that are as formal as the policy you’re submitting on.

These policies are written by people who are employed to write them. This is what they do. They’re good at it. You’re good at milking cows and looking after them. It’s just different skills.

Write in bullet points if that is easier – one line for each fact is fine.

Say what you agree with and what you disagree with. If you disagree, do you know of alternative ways that would work better?

Try to make it as clear and concise as possible. Short is always better than long.

If you are using an online form, you don’t have to answer every question.

With some there is a tick box wanting to know whether you want to give your submission in person at a later date.

This might be in front of your local council or a Government select committee.

Ticking the box does not mean you then have to give your submission in person, it just means you get given the chance to.

For some, there may be financial assistance for travel and accommodation.

Again, your voice has equal weight to those who have PhDs or wear suits and ties to work. Tell your story and tell it to the best of your ability. Don’t worry that you are no good at speaking in public. Think about your message and the importance of it and forget the nerves.

If you need help, get on the phone to DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb or Federated Farmers. Use them. It’s what you pay your levy for.

They have usually analysed the policy and have identified the key points that will concern farmers. They may even be holding workshops throughout the country on the policy and have submission templates available on their websites.

Don’t ignore the emails from them – get involved.

And becoming involved means you are then part of the process. You will be contacted as the policy goes through the different stages from submissions, reporting, analysis and implementation.

It will give you a better insight into how laws are made and changed and how to influence government and local body thinking.

Although democracy allows us to collectively change governments and councils every three years, it is by becoming part of a submission process that an individual really can change our future – so use it.