Counting cost of greening ag

DairyNZ and Federated Farmers are surveying dairy farmers to find out how much money they have invested on-farm in environmental initiatives.

Federated Farmers initiated this research on farmers on-farm environmental spend in the Horizons region last year, and found it was invaluable information to have on hand.

In Horizons the survey results from 900 dairy farmers showed 166 of them had spent a total of $18.5 million on environmental initiatives on-farm.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says the industry body has now joined the quest for environmental spend data and is working in tandem with Federated Farmers to cover the rest of the country.

“It’s been difficult for the industry to quantify all the investment that has been made across the 12,000 dairy farms in New Zealand in areas like effluent systems, stock exclusion from waterways and riparian planting. We have all these individual businesses doing what they need to do and just getting on with the job but nobody knows how much money that’s involving. There are obviously costs to all this investment in responsible dairy farming and environmental stewardship and we just want to put some numbers against it.

“If we want the public and the regulators to understand what is already happening out there, we need to know the facts and figures. We can only get those from farmers,” he says.

Federated Farmers Dairy Chair, Andrew Hoggard, says that this is as much about giving the industry something to be proud of as it is about showing the public that dairy farmers are serious about the part they play in protecting the environment.

“The more facts we have, the easier it is to tell the story about how the industry has stepped up to play its part and more importantly the significant amount farmers are investing to do that.”

“Meeting our commitments under the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord and industry strategy is a huge undertaking not just with national resources but with farmer’s time and money.

“We can’t tell the public or others what we don’t know – so we’re trying to understand how much that commitment to the environment is adding up to at a farm level.”

Mr Hoggard added that the Federation and DairyNZ are collecting the data region by region, which they will eventually be able to put together across the country to tell both the regional and national story.

“Now it’s up to New Zealand dairy farmers to take the survey we’ve sent out to them or visit either of our websites to access it.  If they know their environmental spend it’s quick and easy to do.”

“We’re urging farmers to take part in this project if they haven’t already and to complete it by the end of March.”

Farmers need to complete the survey to help those who help us – DairyNZ and Federated Farmers.

Those who do more are more likely to respond than the minority who do little but it will still provide valuable information on what farmers are doing and how much it costs.

Farming to the required environmental standard isn’t negotiable.

Many farmers go well beyond the minimum required. The financial return on that might not justify the expense but there will be environmental benefits and probably social ones too.

5 Responses to Counting cost of greening ag

  1. robertguyton says:

    “Farming to the required environmental standard isn’t negotiable.”
    Well said. I’d add, “Farming above the required environmental standard is admirable”.


  2. TraceyS says:

    Farmers who farm “above the required environmental standard” do so because they can. Is that admirable? It might be. But sometimes above-standard can be achieved because they have advantages such as lower debt, greater experience, or natural advantages with their property – soil, location etc.

    More admirable is being supportive and encouraging to those who face environmental challenges but are working really hard on them. Reserving judgement is sometimes called for I think.


  3. Mr E says:

    Comparing the OECD 2004 water quality median for phosphate and nitrogen with NZs 2014 water quality median obtained from the NZWQN, we find that our median water way is 3.4% of the OECD for nitrate and 5.3% of the OECD for phosphate.

    I join Robert in “admiring” New Zealand farmers. New Zealand farmers have achieved a much much higher environmental standard than global counter parts.


  4. farmerbraun says:

    Quite Mr E.
    Her Majesty, on the Royal Barge, was perfectly happy to float down the River Thames ,which has nitrate levels 60 times those of the Manawatu River


  5. farmerbraun says:

    Good point Tracey.
    I filled in the survey after some prompting . I had spent nothing in recent years because I was already achieving well above any applicable standard.
    That is largely because my farm , with very light drought -prone soils which are not irrigated and receive no nitrogen fertiliser, has low dry matter production, and as a consequence receives much less nitrogen from cow urine.
    And being naturally low in nitrogen , and fast -growing in winter, it can readily use the excreted nitrogen.
    Consequently , nitrogen loss is very low.


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