I've always found it odd that farmers tend top side with the party that's big on the whole free market idea. Not that I can see them being particularly chummy with Labour either mind. The user-pays proposal that Labour is fronting at the moment, is something that I can see National gleefully bringing in for pretty much any sector other than farmers. Which is odd. Farms are after all, businesses. Which means they should be incurring the costs associated with running that business. Farmers might not have much in the way of ready cash, but I doubt there's many of them that are actually poor. It's like the capital gains thing - if you own a house, especially if you own an investment property, you are pretty much by definition rich. Everyone who is rich seems to forget that being rich doesn't necessarily mean that you have lots of money floating around, it means that you own a significant amount of capital. If you can't find the cash to live day to day then you are managing your wealth wrong and you need to rearrange your finances (sell something, invest elsewhere etc).
If a business is using a public resource, they should be paying for it. Quite possibly some would go broke, but I'm fairly sure that's one of the tenets of free market economics - that non-viable businesses should be allowed to go under. Not that that's been allowed to happen much, look at the huge tax breaks that mediaworks got or the guarantees the government put behind the investment companies.
And it's here, for me, where the disconnect kicks in. The market is supposedly the best mechanism for making things efficient. Leaving aside the arguments that markets are not necessarily the best at making things efficient if that economics were the be all and end all of life (which they're not), then why should the principles of market economies be applied to government ministries and government owned companies, but not to actual companies, where economics are the primary motivator?