Anti-irrigation, anti farming, anti-provinces

Thursday’s Budget included $40m of new funding for irrigation and the environment:

The Budget’s $40 million of new funding for irrigation projects will deliver economic and environmental benefits for New Zealand, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says.

“This will help unlock the potential that water storage and irrigation can deliver, giving a real boost to jobs and exports in regional economies,” he says.

“This new capital funding of $40 million comes from the Future Investment Fund and will be used to purchase shares in Crown Irrigation, enabling it to make further investments. It is in addition to $80 million allocated in last year’s Budget.

“If current proposals are advanced there could be a further 420,000 hectares of irrigated land available for a variety of uses over time. Research from NZIER suggests that exports could be boosted by around $4 billion a year by 2026.

“Irrigation often has real environmental benefits, with more consistent river flows in summer and reduced pressure on ground water sources.

“Only 2 per cent of rainfall in New Zealand is captured and used for irrigation. Clearly we need to do a better job of using this precious resource.

“After the extreme drought most of the country suffered last year, and the one earlier this year in Northland and Waikato, the need for better water storage is obvious,” Mr Guy says.

Crown Irrigation makes targeted bridging investments in irrigation schemes that would not be established with private finance alone. All decisions are made by an independent board.

Last month, Crown Irrigation announced its first investment, with $6.5 million going towards the Central Plains Water Scheme in Canterbury.

Bridging investment enables schemes to get off the ground and must be paid back.

The extra money shows the government recognises the importance of irrigation for both economic and environmental reasons.

That has always escaped the Green Party and now Labour too is turning its back on irrigation.

This has, not surprisingly, upset Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills:

. . .  A recent jaundiced attack upon irrigation has me questioning if the Party gets it.  This speech reads as an electoral game plan designed to demonise a minority of the population while amplifying prejudices and preconceptions about what we do.  Labour’s political calculus is cynical because ‘farming equals bad water’ is dog whistle politics.  Something, I honestly thought we’d moved beyond when Labour Leader David Cunliffe said, in more agricultural parlance, that farmers are good guys.

Labour’s anti-irrigation stance is a flip-flop from when Jim Anderton was Agriculture Minister.

Anderton talked a lot about irrigation but never delivered.

He used to come to North Otago, promise the earth, get positive media coverage for that but failed to do anything at all to support irrigation in the area.

It also contradicts Labour’s desire to enact the world’s most repressive Emissions Trading Scheme.   Winding up the Crown Irrigation Company not only flies in the face of regional economic development but regional climate adaption.  Are memories so short, we have forgotten adaption was a key criticism of the International Panel on Climate Change? 

According to the IPCC, the Hawke’s Bay can expect to double or even triple the time spent in drought by 2040.  Adaption means new pastures and technologies, but fundamentally, it means storing rainwater.  Residents in towns and cities do not wait for rain before taking a shower.

While water is vital to farming, without stored water, it means some of our rivers will increasingly run lower and warmer.  This is a consequence of less rainfall in a changing climate.  It will also impact farming and the environment equally.  The most distressing thing about dog whistle politics is that it denies that farmers live where we farm. It denies that we drink water and denies that our families swim and fish too.  It is a naked attempt to make farmers a breed apart.  It is unreconstructed class warfare.

One thing we agree with Mr Parker on is his speech title, because “you can have both.”  Farming and the environment are flipsides of the same coin so are we perfect?  Far from it.  Does intensive agriculture have an impact on the environment? Of course it does.  Do our growing cities impact the environment? Of course they do. 

Look, farming does need to do better and we are putting huge resource and effort into reducing the footprint of our most important export industry.  This takes money but it also takes time and yet we can point to marked improvements from Lake Rotorua to Otago’s Shag River.  Last year, the Ministry for the Environment’s river condition indicator, said that 90 percent of the sites tested were either stable or improving. You need a clean and healthy environment to farm successfully, so making innovations like water storage more difficult, simply isn’t going to help. 

A denial of water in concert with an ETS seems just the start.  If I can surmise Labour’s economic strategy from this speech, it seems to tax agriculture into the sunset hoping that something, anything, will take its place.   That’s an unprecedented gamble.

According to David Parker, we can also look forward to Resource Rentals targeting farms and a Capital Gains Tax too, which pretty much puts the Sword of Damocles over our head and the 138,000 jobs we support.  I have recently seen policies and politics akin to what’s being proposed.

Argentina may not have capital gains tax, but it does have taxes on property sales with stamp duty on rented accommodation.  It may not have resource rentals but it does have GST on utility leases like water of 27 percent.  It may not have a punitive emissions trading scheme, but it does have export taxes on primary exports of up to 35 percent.  Argentina has a tax for almost every occasion and it also has 30 percent inflation.

As some Argentinean farmers face 86 percent taxation, the only way to survive is to farm in wide but ever decreasing circles.  Its big export is soy where over 20 million hectares is in cultivation and that’s a lot more acreage in one crop than the entire South Island.  It is also overwhelmingly genetically modified and that I was told came at the behest of the Argentinean government.  All needed to fund a tax and spend Catch-22.

What is at stake here is a very large chunk of New Zealand’s $50 billion merchandise exports which pays for everyone’s daily bread. 

A calculated demonisation of farming is an attempt to drive a wedge between a farming minority and the urban majority. It plays on every cliché and every negative perception about farming and it was telling there was no mention of the Land and Water Forum’s success.  It is a worry when many positives seen in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, the Dairy Industry Awards, QEII National Trust and the NZ Landcare Trust are blithely ignored.

While Labour certainly took one small step forward with its Monetary Policy, this tone represents one giant leap backwards, which is why Federated Farmers has the backs of farmers.

Labour’s not just anti-irrigation, its for more taxes and Feds’ Dairy chair Willy Leferink says Labour is gunning for farmers:

Let me put my cards on the table I am a swing voter so Labour’s recent economic policy release from Finance spokesperson, David Parker, pricked my interest.  If a week is a time in politics a few days must be like years, because another speech from him had me shaking my head in disbelief.

According to Parker, National is allowing “public rivers and estuaries to be spoiled by nutrient and faecal contaminants from agriculture.”  Funny I didn’t think we had private ones.  We also got this, “In the absence of effective environmental standards, this will also mean more dairy effluent and nutrient run-off into our rivers and lakes, and into our estuaries and inshore fisheries.”  It reads like something from Fish and Game’s head office.

Labour’s big idea is to tax farming.  I wonder what that will do to supermarket prices let alone our international competiveness.  Labour also keen to impose the world’s most extreme Emissions Trading Scheme incorporating all biological emissions.  That will see our costs explode and consumers will ultimately foot the bill.  That’s not all.  Instead of giving more money to DoC to save Kiwi, they’re going to save lawyers by toughening up the RMA and DoC’s advocacy role.

But wait there’s more.  In a bizarre contradiction, given the UN’s climate boffins say New Zealand isn’t doing enough to adapt to climate change, Labour is going to scrap all public support of irrigation. 

This gets even surreal since Labour will introduce a Resource Rental Tax on water but only that used by agriculture.  I can only surmise Mr Parker believes there is zero pollution whenever he enters the littlest room.  There’s got to be a Tui billboard in that.

When you put this together with a Capital Gains Tax (yep, targeting farms) you’ve the impression Labour doesn’t like us and wants to tax us into the sunset. 

The sting in the tale means the price of food will skyrocket but I bet Labour has a KiwiFarm policy up its sleeve.  It will have collectivised state farms producing cheap bountiful food for the masses to be sold in nationalised KiwiSupermarkets.  I think the Soviets once tried that.

Yet we shouldn’t worry because clean energy is apparently the new dairy.  Despite the fact you cannot export electricity, Parker says we have great opportunities in clean energy like hydro and geothermal yadda yadda yadda.  He talks about LanzaTech but misses the point they left New Zealand because of stultifying regulations and that’s under National!  Hydro must also be an in-joke given the last aborted attempt to build one failed and under Labour, the RMA will be tightened.  Meanwhile, any industry capable of using this bountiful energy won’t be able to emit a puff of greenhouse gas without being walloped by the ETS.

The most distressing thing to me is Labour’s clichéd view of farming.

It was a real shame the only MP at the recent New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards in Auckland was Nathan Guy.  The lack of an opposition MP surprised and disappointed me in equal measure.  One person volunteered, ‘because the tickets weren’t free’ and perhaps that is sadly true.  As a farming leader and as farmers, we get a few raspberries chucked at us but this makes you look in the mirror. 

While my farm gate is open to Mr Parker, can I suggest visiting the inspirational entrants of the 2014 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.  Being close to this competition, which Federated Farmers started 25 years ago, I know the winners are really first among equals.

Charlie and Jody McCaig have gone from being Taranaki farm management winners in 2011 to become 2014 New Zealand Sharemilker/Equity farmer of the Year.  How about Ruth Hone, who was named Dairy Trainee of the Year and the first ever women to lift that title.  She is smart, capable and adaptable and those words sum up the dairy industry in 2014.  Then you’ve got a 27 year old Nick Bertram, who came into dairy with a background in accounting thanks to his teacher dad, but no farming experience.  He was named Farm Manager of the Year for 2014. 

These awards showcased others who’d joined dairying from fields as diverse as professional rugby, hospitality, engineering and the police.  As one in the eye for Kim DotCom’s party, it included an IT professional too.

Then again I suppose it shows why politicians are far less trusted than us farmers.  While they may subscribe to ‘don’t let the facts get in the way’ we don’t.

Labour has given up any pretence it’s supportive of farming and in doing so shows it has also given up on the provinces which depend so much on farming success.

The Waitaki District’s population has been going backwards for decades.

Last year’s census showed that it is beginning to grow again. The biggest influence on that must be irrigation.

There were four houses on our farm and the two nearest neighbours before irrigation, now there are 14.

We’re building a 15th and another neighbour is building two more.

That is happening everywhere that’s been irrigated bringing economic and social benefits to the district and it’s being done with due regard for the environment.

All shareholders in the North Otago Irrigation Company must have independently audited environmental farm plans which ensure that soil and water quality aren’t compromised.

Farmers used to have some faint hopes that Labour would counter the anti-irrigation, anti-farming policies of the Green Party.

Those hopes have been dashed and should they get into power, the provinces will be the first to pay the price.


19 Responses to Anti-irrigation, anti farming, anti-provinces

  1. Mr E says:

    I keep hearing out of touch rhetoric rather than sensible Left policy.

    When I read the Greens policies for Agriculture – some of them spell DOOM.

    Take this gem for example:

    “Promote the target of half of New Zealand’s production becoming certified organic by 2020”

    Now research in New Zealand (23 farms) found this –
    Per unit of product – organic farms output 36% more carbon from energy sources than conventional farms. The key word – From energy sources. Non renewables. Those things that the Greens hate digging up. – Organics use more of it. Yep more per unit of product.

    The counter to this is that on a per hectare basis, they output 25% less from energy sources.

    How does organics produce less emissions per unit of area but more per unit of product – Simple they produce less. How much? The study – 40% less. Yes 40%!

    Let me explain something simple – The organic market is widely understood to be a niche market and by definition – it is a narrow market. The Greens policy suggests half of NZ shifts to organics – FLOODING niche markets with organic milk – in affect, eliminating price premiums they may receive.

    Imagine that – 50% of NZ dairy farmers reducing their output by 40% for no financial advantage.

    And apply that to all NZ farms.

    Imagine the fire sale that would happen – Famers would default on loans- Thousands of farms would hit the market, land prices would plummet . New Zealand Agriculture would go broke.

    All because the Greens have some ill advised idea that organics are better for NZ.
    Under this policy somebody else in the world would carry the burden, exhausting carbon to make food. Potentially somebody else that worse at making food from carbon than we are. Because NZ farms are pretty good at keeping carbon outputs low. Studies prove this to be true.

    Anti production, Anti NZ, Anti environment. That is what this policy is. That is what the Greens look like to me. Destroying NZ and the planet one policy at a time.

    If there are any scientists out there- Let me request a new index for measuring Carbon emission (not present in reporting)

    KgCO2e/kgproduct/hectare. Under this index Dairy Organics produce 76% more emissions from energy. And total emissions (including animals and consumables) – 41% more according to my calculations (meat product output ignored).

    Currently Organic dairy makes up 0.3% of dairy exports by value. A relatively small amount. And between 2009-2012 it grew by 37% due to market forces (2012 NZ Organic Sector Report). Should they really be interfered with when they can grow on their own accord?


  2. Dave Kennedy says:

    Mr E we have discussed this issue at length before and you are being a little dishonest in continuing this line of argument. As you know this is an aspirational policy and we have discussed how the implementation of any policy is the most important aspect. Forcing such a policy onto farmers without support or buy in would be catastrophic. We have also talked about what a transition would look like that includes natural and biological farming.

    However despite how impractical you may think organics may be there is ample evidence that the potential is huge. Dairy NZ states:

    “The opportunity for New Zealand to take advantage of the export market for organic dairy products is significant.

    “New Zealand exports of organic dairy products in 2007 were $6.9m, which is a relatively small share of the global organic dairy market. Fonterra has secured organic export markets and needs a significant increase in organic milk production.”


  3. Mr E says:

    A little Dishonest – Pardon me? Where?

    All policies are aspiration Dave until they are passed into law. Your policy says “promote”. Nothing about how you ‘plan to promote’. Pardon my cynicism but taxing conventional farmers could be considered as ‘promoting’ organics – So who really knows what your promotion will entail – do you?

    How can something be aspiration, then catastrophic in the next sentence. Your calling me a little dishonest – Sheesh!

    And if 50% is an aspirational pipe dream, as you appear to be saying, why 50%? Why not say less? It seems like the Greens are acting like car sales men – sticking Ferrari badges on a Lada – or the other way around, some might say.

    $6.9 million in 2007 – WOW Dave- that is huge!

    Simple math (rough for blog purposes)
    250ha farm

    Say $2 million.

    Your 2007 result – roughly equals 4 farms output.

    You Greens really know how to do the best for all NZers.


  4. Dave Kennedy says:

    You are implying that there will be no financial advantage when there would be if managed properly. Research done many years ago in Canterbury demonstrated that the external costs of dairying in the region cost over $60 million. Much of this was the remedial work needed to mitigate the negative environmental and health effects, the irrigation schemes being subsidized by taxpayers should also be considered.

    The international organic markets are huge and we are well placed to take advantage of this. Farming sustainably generally does mean a drop in protein production but then again inputs can be much less and the imports of palm kernel and fertilizer will also drop. When input costs are reduced and the value of the milk produced increases, the economics can stack up pretty well.

    It would be economic suicide to force organics on farmers when it is impractical to do so and there aren’t the support systems in place. The 2007 figures are a distraction and cannot be compared to current values. All it was intended to show was our underinvestment.


  5. Mr E says:

    “The international organic markets are huge”
    No they are not. Relatively speaking they are very small. I’m surprised you are saying niche markets are huge. It simply is not true when considered in relation to conventional markets.

    Global Organic Market $59b (US) in 2010
    Which might sound big to some, but the value NZ exports in 2012 was $47b (NZ)

    And to add injury of injury – $59b is the market – Not the export market which I expect will be a small fraction.

    In the absence of data I understand around 10% of all food is imported and exported. Extrapolating that makes $59b (US) only $5.9b. 50% of New Zealand’s dairy exports by way of value could be the same as the entire Global organic food market.


  6. Mr E says:

    *injury to injury*


  7. Dave Kennedy says:

    Again, Mr E, you are misrepresenting figures. This is a rapidly growing market, it was worth $59 billion in 2010 but will almost double in value by next year to reach $104 billion and $188 billion by 2019. Basically the demand is well above production whatever we can produce there is a market for it.,oid,14821/lang,2/ticket,g_u_e_s_t/~/Global_organic_food_and_beverages_market_to_reach_104_billion.html

    Mr E if R&D and support was provided to farmers so that they can make a transition to organics (it does take years to to do) in a way that is economically viable and the organic markets are strong would you still object?

    The Green Party also work around the concept of a just transition from one economy to another. It is important to have a strategy in place so that economic and social hardship is avoided through any change process. As a teacher who has had to deal with the forced introduction of National Standards with no trial or consultation and the implementation of Novopay when it had 149 identified software faults, I understand the implications of badly managed change.


  8. Mr E says:

    Misrepresenting – Me?

    How about you look at your own presentation of information.
    The forecast of $104b you say “will” happen was presented in Feb 2011. It was a forecast not an actual.

    The 2019 is also a forecast not an ‘actual’ as you suggest, unless you greens have some crystal ball that the rest of us don’t have.

    Regarding the ‘Transparency Market Report’ you are citing. Have you read the full report? Surely you must have to cite it with such enthusiasm – criticising my figures. If so please provide a link. If not – I’d say you don’t know the methods for which the forecast is made and are making risky citations there Dave.

    How big is the Global Export sector for Organic Dairy Dave?. If you don’t know, I think it is ridiculous that you support policy that looks to change NZs influence. Policy like that is on a ‘wing and a prayer’ and made without due process taking place.

    R&D support has been rife for years. There was a time (Labour) where FRST funding had a major direction change to Organic systems research. I was of that Error Dave. You forget who you are talking to Dave.
    There was a time where I spent all of my time investigating low chemical agricultural advances. Sadly most of what I achieved was debunking many of the myths about organics. Saying “nope that doesn’t work either” So would I still strongly object? – Yes.

    A “transition” is not 50% by 2020. Remember Dave it takes 3 years to become certified organic. 50% of NZ farmers have less than 2 years to get going.

    Your statements don’t line up with your policy Dave.


  9. Dave Kennedy says:

    Mr E, you provided your own figure as if it was a fixed market and yet a google search reveals (as you can do yourself) that from numerous sources it is clear that the organic market is growing and demand outstrips supply.

    Also I have never disputed that the 50% organic by 2020 will be hard to achieve, we have discussed this at length in the past and I have even put forward ideas for a possible transition. Just like this Government kept promising a surplus and it took time to achieve, I’m sure if we get into Government we would most likely revise our goals as more information and consultation with the industry occurs.

    I am also aware of the research that Massey has been doing, comparing an organic dairy farm with a conventional one. The comparison is more around quantity of protein produced, and doesn’t take into account the added value that organic milk may bring, but I admit that the organic farm hasn’t quite been as competitive as was thought. However, more and more conventional farms are adopting practices that were once thought of as organic.

    Despite how you regard our policy you have to accept that we all probably share the same end ideal, a farming sector that is economically and environmentally sustainable. How we get to that point is the real area of debate and farmers do not want an ideology forced on them that doesn’t work, I get that.


  10. Mr E says:

    All I want Dave, is for you to recognise that this policy needs revised.

    50% by 2020 is not hard to achieve – It is impossible, in my opinion.

    Not only that the extremity of the policy (50%) indicates that it would have dire consequences if you even got half way there.

    It is not an admirable target – Not at all.

    I find it hard to believe that I am arguing those points. You’ve seemed so logical and humble in the past yet you staunchly support this policy.

    No question we both have similar goals. But I would say a complete opposite vision of how those goals should be achieved.


  11. Dave Kennedy says:

    Mr E, I am not actually defending the 50% by 2020, what I am defending is the fact that the market for organics is a rapidly growing one and there would be value in pursuing it. As far as I am aware there is currently no detailed strategy to achieve our goal but I am sure that if we were ever in Government that would be a priority. If it it is done properly you may very well be proved right on many of your concerns and the strategy and goal would have to b adjusted accordingly.


  12. Mr E says:

    Sure markets are growing – but remember 20% of 1% is not much.

    Do we really need to government interference in this given that the New Zealand growth of organics is in line with market growth?

    Given that research indicates many organic systems emit more carbon, promotion makes it look like you are willing to ‘swallow a dirty big rat’ so to speak.


  13. TraceyS says:

    “I’m sure if we get into Government…”

    I’m sure you won’t.

    “I’m sure if we get into Government we would most likely revise our goals as more information and consultation with the industry occurs.”

    Now I’m twice as sure you won’t. Who on earth would vote for that? You might revise your goals upwards. This means voters get an altogether different policy to that for which they voted.

    “I am sure that if we were ever in Government…”

    Ah now that is much better. Optimistic, but better.

    Well done Mr E for helping Dave eventually see reality!


  14. Dave Kennedy says:

    Mr E, if the science is indeed conclusive that organic farming emits more carbon than conventional farming then that would definitely be a cause for a rethink. There is also the methane issue that needs to be included. The total combination of all greenhouse gas releases should be a deciding factor.

    You talk about Government interference in agricultural decisions but isn’t it already happening with hundreds of millions being set aside to subsidise irrigation and enabling greater intensification? The Government also determines funding for research which has resulted in the gutting of Invermay.

    While you dispute the extent of the international market for organics, it is still sizable especially for a country the size of ours that is well positioned to do well against competitors because of our natural landscapes.

    Whatever the outcome of any solid research we stand to do well if we promote truly clean green agriculture systems. Some of our most successful businesspeople have already seen the potential, let’s embrace it 😉

    Even the Royal Society of New Zealand, the IMF and the World bank are in agreement that our economic future is best served going green!

    You may be right that a purely organic approach may not be the greenest option, but let’s make sure that any decisions regarding this are based on robust science and not ideology. I personally will not die in a ditch because of ideological stands, I just want to ensure that I leave a better world for my kids and things are pretty dodgy at the moment.


  15. Dave Kennedy says:

    Tracey, people would rather have a Government that makes the right decisions, based on the evidence and advice at the time. My experience of education under this Government is of an administration that doesn’t properly consult, that ignores expert advice and generally only serves the wealthy elite.

    While policy is hugely important for establishing intent, it would be hugely irresponsible to push ahead with policy when new, robust, evidence conflicts with that policy.


  16. TraceyS says:

    Dave, unfortunately you can’t live by evidence alone. For there is no such thing as absolute objectivity. Gut feel plays a hugely important part in all spheres of life – even at the highest levels. I’m always pleased to encounter it. We should learn to teach it in schools. Because without it there would be no genuine leadership, just mindless, programmed responses to the next set of “facts”. How boring!

    My experience of education under this Government is this: three years of certainty at a time is too short. Governments don’t “serve” people. People serve people and they do so under any regime. Governments seek to control people. The less the better, I say. You’re an intelligent and compassionate man – why don’t you get that? The green party should be libertarian as its bulk supporters truly are free spirits. But that doesn’t fit with climate change rhetoric. It’s such a shame.

    If you’re guided primarily by expert advice and evidence you are bound to end up lost. And when you’re lost, policy becomes meaningless, that’s why so many people don’t vote. Policy means nothing to them and yet their lives are full of meaning. And the greater the number disengaged, the crappier is our democracy. Yet meaning, experience, hope – are not lost but just hidden away from the likes of (most) politicians, academics, professionals and others who divorce themselves from it.


  17. Dave Kennedy says:

    Tracey, there will never be total certainty and once the evidence is in a certain amount of intuition or ‘gut feeling’ is always necessary as part of any final decision. But research is still a crucial element as is testing and trials. Teaching generally support an inquiry approach to improving practice which involves an ongoing cycle of learning and adaption.

    Under this Government there is a severe distrust of science and evidence and professional knowledge. This has led to some real disasters in education. The national Standards introduction was diabolical and is still highly flawed, the implementation of Novopay was a gut feeling decision and cost us over $60 million to fix (and it still isn’t), the appointment of lesley Longstone with her background in Charter Schools was a sad disaster, Early Childhood is suffering through the gutting of professional knowledge, the sacking of school advisors has compromised growth of of curriculum knowledge… Governments should dictate and control like this one, proper consultation and collaboration is what is needed.

    I read on this blog how farmers would like greater collaboration regarding major decisions and want respect and trust in their knowledge of good farming practice. This should occur in all sectors.


  18. Dave Kennedy says:

    Should read “governments shouldn’t dictate….”


  19. RBG says:

    TraceyS your gut instinct is wrong if it’s telling you that the Green party is supported by libertarians whose free spirits are being held back by the party’s climate change policy.


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