Environmental role models needed for ag

New Zealanders need to hear more about the great progress farmers are making to lift their environmental performance says Ballance Agri-Nutrients Chairman David Graham.

“Farmers, their co-ops and their industry bodies all agree there is a need to protect and improve New Zealand’s water quality.  We have made good progress and we will make more.

“That’s a strong message we need to take to the rest of New Zealand. They don’t hear enough about the great work being done by  our farmers.  Nor do many of them realise how much of our economy depends on six inches of topsoil and how important it is to ensure that soil is productive.”

He said initiatives like the Ballance Farm Environmental Awards were important in showcasing and celebrating agriculture’s great role models and demonstrated to New Zealanders that farmers are committed to sustainable farming. He singled out this year’s national winners, Blair and Jane Smith, as an example of best practice at work.

The fact is, most farmers have always been committed to looking after the land and preserving it for generations to come – it’s just what we do.  Farming sustainably is good common sense and makes good economic sense too.”

Mr Graham said that in order to give communities confidence that farming can and will change, role models like the Smiths were important.

“The Smiths represent a new generation of farmers who understand and are clearly demonstrating that reducing waste and improving efficiency is as good for the environment as it is for the bottom line.”

The Smiths run Newhaven Farms Ltd – a North Otago sheep, beef, forestry and dairy support operation that spans three family-owned properties totalling 1528 ha, and were chosen from nine regional winners. He said despite identifying many talented farmers and role models through the Ballance Farm Environment Awards over the years, it can’t all be left up to them. “While the timeframes to introduce agriculture into the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme appear to have eased off, we cannot rest on our laurels.  The extra time will allow the sector to develop effective, proven mitigation practices.”

Ballance is making a contribution to the cause through their $32 million Clearview Innovations research programme, which is part funded by the Government’s Primary Growth Partnership.

The seven year programme targets all the major challenges facing farming today; nutrient efficiency, water quality and  farm productivity  and is focussed on farming profitably with a lighter environmental footprint.

The Balance Farm Environment Awards showcase the best of farming.

All the entrants are role models for the industry.

This is important not just for other farmers but for the public which is too often shown only the minority of farmers who don’t regard themselves as stewards of their land and the wider environment.

Farmers we spoke to in England and Europe last month spoke admiringly of New Zealand farming practices.

There is no room for complacency and there is still a small minority of farmers who either don’t know or don’t care about the importance of sustainable farming practices.

But that is all the more reason to celebrate the majority and industry leaders like the Environment Award winners.


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