Rural round-up

November 28, 2019

Government is losing the forestry debate with rural New Zealand – Keith Woodford:

The response of Government Ministers to rural concerns about forestry policy is polarising the debate. Describing rural perspectives as ‘fiction’, and upset rural protesters as ‘rednecks’, is counter-productive.

The combination of the Zero Carbon Act and forthcoming Emission Trading Scheme legislation will transform the New Zealand landscape. The Government has done a poor job of educating New Zealanders as to what it will mean. The Government is now on the defensive.

In this article, the focus is on multi-rotation production forestry. The associated story of permanent forests must wait for another article.

The starting point is that New Zealand has a policy goal of zero net carbon emissions by 2050. That means, among other things, that either New Zealand has to find new energy sources to replace fossil fuels, or else it has to offset those emission in other ways. The offsetting has to start right now. . . 

Government waterways proposal to move fences could cost millions – farmers – Eric Frykberg:

Farmers who have paid millions of dollars to put fences alongside waterways fear having to pay millions more to move them.

This worry has arisen from the government’s proposed Action Plan for Healthy Waterways, which was released in September.

This plan called for fences to be set back at least five metres from a creek that runs through a farm, to stop nutrients leaking into the water.

Federated Farmers environment spokesman Chris Allen said many creeks had already been fenced off, and those fences might have to be shifted under the proposed new rules.

“If we have put up fences to exclude stock, the last thing we want, now the goalposts have moved, is to do the whole job all over again,” Mr Allen said. . . 

Debate rages over report findings about meat, health – Brent Melville:

Whether you prefer burgers or beans, it is clear that international lobbying against red meat continues to gain momentum.

The latest volley comes from a recent joint survey by researchers at Oxford University and University of Minnesota.

Their report, “Multiple health and environmental impacts of food”, went further than just the health benefits or otherwise of different foods, linking ingredients associated with improved adult health to lower environmental impacts. And vice-versa.

The researchers picked 15 foods, measuring their impact if they were added to what an average Western adult would eat on a daily basis. . . 

Milk could be carbon-neutral now, says new study – Eloise Gibson:

By boosting how much maize cows eat, modestly reducing stock numbers, shrinking fertiliser use and buying carbon offsets, New Zealand milk could be carbon neutral today, according to a new study modelling changes to a typical Waikato dairy farm.

Researchers at AgResearch have calculated that a typical Waikato dairy farm could go carbon neutral now and still make a profit.

As a bonus, a farm that adopted the changes could also reduce nitrogen leaching by up to 42 percent, improving water quality.

Crucially, the farms profit could also increase, by 15 percent, after factoring in a premium paid by climate-conscious consumers. . . 

More farmers feeling bank pressure, Feds survey finds:

In the last six months farmers’ satisfaction with their banks has continued to erode and the number who feel under pressure from banks has risen from 16% to 23%, the latest Federated Farmers Banking Survey shows.

“While most farmers remain ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their banks, the number giving those ratings have slipped from 71% in May this year to 68% in our November survey,” Feds economics and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says. That’s the lowest since we began the twice-a-year surveys in August 2015.

“This is disappointing but not at all surprising given what we have been hearing over the past several months of banks getting tougher and changing conditions as they seek to contain or even reduce their exposure to agriculture, and also as they respond – prematurely – to the Reserve Bank’s proposals on bank capital,” Andrew says. . . 

 

Dairy, beef, and lamb exports rise in October:

Exports of dairy products, beef, and lamb, particularly to China, increased in value in October 2019, Stats NZ said today.

However, the rises were partly offset by falls in logs and kiwifruit.

In October 2019, the value of total goods exports rose $206 million (4.3 percent) from October 2018 to reach $5.0 billion.

The rise in exports was led by milk powder, up $194 million (32 percent) from October 2018. The rise was quantity-led, but unit values were also up. . .


Rural round-up

November 17, 2019

Under the sacred mountain

East Cape farmers Rob and Mary Andrews appreciate the opportunities they have been given by people who they have worked for in the past and they enjoy returning the favour to others, as Colin Williscroft discovered.

As the first place in the world to see the sun as it rises every day Mount Hikurangi is on a few bucket lists.

But few people venture to Pakihiroa Farms, about 20km inland from Ruatoria, where Rob and Mary Andrews live and work and which includes the mountain in its boundaries.

The farm is in an isolated spot in a part of the country that does not attract a lot of passing traffic, given it’s not on the way for most New Zealanders.  . . 

Busy gets busier – Cheyenne Nicholson:

An artificial insemination run is just one of many things a West Coast farmer has up her sleeve to generate extra income for the farm. Cheyenne Nicholson reports. 

RUNNING an Airbnb, milking 140 cows and raising two small children keep Hokitika 50:50 sharemilkers Thomas and Hannah Oats busy.

And if that isn’t enough, Hannah, in a bid expand her skills, to benefit their own business and generate some extra income has trained and qualified to become an artificial insemination technician. . . 

Cherry on top for station’s returns :

Twelve hectares of cherry trees planted in September at Mt Pisa Station, Central Otago complete the first stage of a $15.5 million cherry project by the horticultural investment firm Hortinvest.

Mt Pisa Station’s landowners, the MacMillan family, are among the investors who underwrote the planting. The sheep and beef business has set aside 80ha of prime pastoral land for the venture as it diversifies into horticulture.

The orchard will produce cherries for export from the summer of 2021-2022. . . 

Hort export figures challenged – Pam Tipa:

Horticulture’s export revenue growth is likely to be about 10% in the current financial year – not the 3.8% forecast by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Horticulture NZ (HortNZ) chief executive Mike Chapman says he doesn’t know where MPI got its figure in the Situation and Outlook report for Primary Industries.

Growth for horticulture was 13.7% in the year ended June 2019 in the September updated report. But it is forecast to be down to 3.8% in the current year.

HortNZ has asked how MPI arrived at that forecast because the report doesn’t say. . . 

Growth, exports recognised – Luisa Girao:

An Invercargill Blue River Dairy manager believes the company is changing the face of the New Zealand dairy industry and recent recognition adds support to such a view.

Earlier this week, the Southland-based company received awards for fastest-growing manufacturing business and fastest-growing exporter at the Deloitte Fast 50 Awards, held in Auckland, which ranks the country’s fastest-growing businesses.

The company was also announced as the fifth-fastest-growing business overall. . . 

People keep stealing hemp from US farms, thinking it’s weed – Jason Nark:

People see the serrated leaves and the fuzzy buds from afar, but it’s the familiar smell wafting over the field that seals the deal.

They pack a not-so-brilliant idea into their heads and scramble to yank the hardy plants right from the soil. Back home, they light up and sit sober in the smoke, writing off their heist as a bunch of dank weed.

Hemp resembles marijuana, its much more psychoactive cousin, in just about every way except one: It probably won’t get you high. People in the US state of Pennsylvania caught stealing hemp still haven’t figured that out. . . 


Rural round-up

October 21, 2019

Awards help farmers put spotlight on environmental progress:

It’s never been more important for farmers to showcase to fellow New Zealanders the work they’re doing to lighten their environmental footprint, Federated Farmers says.

“We’re in the middle of a national debate on the best regulatory settings to help drive improved water quality in our rivers and lakes.  Some of the talk might drive an impression that we’re in some sort of downward environmental spiral, when the truth is many farmers up and down the nation are putting in huge amounts of sustainability and biodiversity enhancement work,” Feds environment spokesperson Chris Allen says.

Deadlines for the 2019 Ballance Farm Environment Awards in Horizons, Wellington and Waikato have already passed, but it’s not too late for farmers in eight other regions around New Zealand. . .

Shearing costs eat wool cheques  – Alan WIlliams:

A fourth straight year of poor strong-wool prices lies ahead for sheep farmers.

After the increase in shearing charges in 2018-19 Beef+Lamb has estimated that combined with continuing abnormally low strong-wool prices that in the North Island, where nearly all the wool clip is crossbred, shearing costs take up 90% of farm wool receipts.

Until the start of the downturn four years ago shearing costs typically accounted for just 45% of wool returns. . . .

Fewer cows produce more milk – Neal Wallace:

An emerging approach to dairying might let farmers obey environment rules while maintaining or growing milk production.

The farm system change project has found farmers can run fewer but higher-performing cows while maintaining or growing milk supply.

It is done by accurately managing costs, feed quality and quantity to maintain cow condition, which results in a more efficient farm and conversion of feed by cows. . .

Seaweed feed could reduce cattle greenhouse gases :

 

The Cawthron Institute will receive $100,000 from the Government, to help it turn a native red seaweed into a greenhouse gas-busting cattle feed supplement.

The money comes from the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund and was announced by the Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister during a visit to the Nelson-based research institute today. . .

Chicken virus can be eradicated MPI says  – Maja Burry:

The Ministry for Primary Industries believes its is possible to eradicate a chicken virus that was recently detected here.

Last month MPI reported routine industry testing at two Otago egg farms owned by Mainland Poultry had identified the likely presence of Infectious Bursal Disease type one.

The virus can affect the immune system of young chickens but doesn’t pose any risk to human health. . .

‘Hyperactive’ 80-yr-old vet Jakob Malmo retires to run two dairy farms – Marion MacDonald:

Jakob Malmo says he’s too old to be lying in the mud delivering a calf so Gippsland’s legendary dairy vet has retired at 80 – to run two large dairy farms with his new wife, Jean.

Admitting others have described him as ‘hyperactive’, Dr Malmo is not one to sit still.

The achievements across his 58-year veterinary career are so many, it’s hard to know where to start but the man himself was most proud of the Melbourne University Rural Veterinary Unit he and Professor Doug Blood established in Maffra. . .


We all want clean water but

September 6, 2019

There’s no argument on the goal of clean freshwater but there’s significant angst in rural New Zealand over the way the government plans to get it.

We all want clean water, but not in a way that drastically increases the cost of farming and therefore food, destroys livelihoods and communities, and sabotages the economy.

Federated Farmers says the government’s proposals for cleaner freshwater throw farmers under the tractor:

Federated Farmers estimates large parts of rural New Zealand will have to abandon their reliance on the pastoral sector based on the freshwater proposals released today.

The Essential Freshwater announcements could lead to wholesale land use change to meet unnecessarily stringent targets.

The proposed National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management nutrient levels will require parts of New Zealand to reduce their nitrogen by up to 80%. 

“It becomes very hard to continue economically farming animals or growing vegetables under a regime like this,” Federated Farmers environment and water spokesperson Chris Allen says.   

“The long term targets for nitrogen reduction, are effectively unachievable in some parts of the country, and will end pastoral farming in these areas.”

Federated Farmers continues to be supportive of government effort to improve and maintain water quality, the use of farm environment plans and the continued shift to ‘GMP’ – good management practice policy.

“But with today’s proposals the government seems to be signalling it is prepared to gamble with the viability of food production as the major export earner for New Zealand.”

Feds has one simple message for the government, freshwater quality will continue to improve in rural areas, because farmers and growers are already doing the work.

“Lumping regional councils, with an entirely new regulatory system to implement and manage puts up everyone’s rates, and gives little additional support to actual water quality results,”  Chris says.

“Millions of dollars raised from increased rates which could have been spent on more river and waterway restoration will now be spent on hearings, lawyers and other random water experts,” Chris says.

“Basically your rates will go up, while farmers are doing the work anyway.”

Feds is particularly concerned about the proposed “interim controls” which will have untold ramifications for the New Zealand economy, as there will be an inevitable slump in land values, across all sectors and regions.

“The discussion documents say an ‘interim control’ is not a ban.  But if it stops you from doing something with your own land, without appeal or any achievable recourse, then it’s a ban, pure and simple,” Chris says.

This ban will have a significantly negative knock-on effect for all rural and urban communities where the activity of the primary sector is the lifeblood earner for the cafes, sports clubs, banks, insurance companies, car dealerships, restaurants, shopping malls and all the other people downstream of New Zealand’s largest earner.

“All we ask is for regulation that is based on science and evidence.”

Federated Farmers encourages all farmers to do their best to input into this process despite the short consultation period of six weeks and it being at the busiest time of the year for farmers.

Beef + Lamb NZ says the proposals would make sheep and beef farmers sacrificial lambs:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) says plans to lock down current land uses will have a disproportionate effect on the majority of sheep and beef farms that are low input, extensive systems with a light touch on the environment.

“The sheep and beef sector’s vision is for New Zealanders to continue to be able to swim in and collect food from the freshwater surrounding sheep and beef farms,” says B+LNZ’s Chairman Andrew Morrison. 

‘Sheep and beef farmers are committed to protecting the health of our waterways and we’re proud of the progress we’ve made so far, however, we know there is still more work to be done.  

“The Essential Freshwater proposals are comprehensive and will take time to assess, however, we are deeply concerned by some of the analysis we have seen – including modelling that suggests 68 percent of drystock farms in the Waikato/Waipa catchment would be converted into forestry as a direct result of the proposed regulations, while more intensive land uses largely remain the same.

Forestry isn’t necessarily good for water quality with sediment and slash washing into waterways after harvesting.

“These proposals will undermine the viability of a low-intensity sector which supports over 80,000 jobs and generates exports of $9.1 billion a year.  It risks decimating rural communities, especially when coupled with other proposed policies such as the Zero Carbon Bill.

“Ultimately, we are concerned the sheep and beef sector will bear a disproportionate impact of the proposed policies, far outweighing the environmental impact of our farming systems.”

Issues around nitrogen leaching are driven primarily by cattle stocking rates and high loadings of nitrogen fertiliser, leading to greater concentrations of nitrate leaching into waterways. 

“Most sheep and beef farming systems operate within the natural capacity of the land due to our low stocking rates and efficient, low input farming model,” says Mr Morrison.

“Our nitrogen leaching rates are low and in catchments where sheep and beef farms are the predominant farming system, nitrogen levels are not an issue. 

“The sheep and beef sector’s main water health issues are sediment, phosphorus and intensive winter grazing on crops.  We are committed to addressing our contribution to these issues and understand the need for increased oversight for activities which pose a higher environmental risk.

“However, the devil is in the detail and we will be looking to ensure any new requirements are matched to the environmental effects we are looking to manage.

“The Essential Freshwater proposals that will likely have the greatest impact on sheep and beef farmers are a range of “grandparenting” provisions that restrict land use change, and flexibility within a farming system to diversify.

“In doing this, the greatest flexibility is provided for those that currently undertake high intensity, high discharging land uses.

“New Zealand’s most sustainable and low intensity farming systems, those with the lightest environmental footprint, will have no flexibility moving forward to adapt to these and or other environmental pressures.  The success of our farming system has been the ability to adapt and diversify.”

The approach proposed also fails to take into account the other benefits that extensive farming systems provide such as biodiversity and supporting healthy and vibrant rural communities, says Mr Morrison. 

“The government’s objective of “holding the line” is understandable, but the way it would be implemented will lead to a perverse outcome where blanket limits are placed on everyone, even though individual farmers’ contribution to the problem differs wildly.

“While the government says these are interim controls until councils have new plans in place, there are no timeframes and based on our previous experience, councils’ processes will take many years. During that time, the damage will be done.”   

Sheep and beef farmers have been working to address a wide range of environmental issues, he says.  

“We are committed to addressing freshwater quality issues such as erosion, E.coli and phosphorous by working towards all farmers having land and environment plans by 2021.  Our sector has already lifted this from 36 percent in 2017 to 49 percent in 2019, and many farmers are getting involved in catchment communities.

“While there is still more to do, in-stream sediment concentrations have been improving as farmers have been planting native and poplar trees in erosion prone areas and retiring some land from production.   

“It appears from the proposal that many sheep and beef farmers will be punished for doing the right thing.  Over the last 30 years we’ve doubled export revenue from the industry while reducing our land use foot print, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30%. 

“At the same time our sheep and beef farms are a reservoir for almost three million hectares of native vegetation, making up nearly a quarter of New Zealand’s remaining native vegetation and including 1.4 million hectares of native forest, which co-exists alongside productive agriculture.” 

B+LNZ has extensive resources to support farmers in adopting best management practice for intensive winter grazing on crops and has over the last year led a pan-sector process to develop common policy solutions and build on industry initiatives to manage these activities. 

DairyNZ makes a plea: let’s all improve our waterways without destroying rural communities:

Today’s Essential Freshwater Package shows healthy and swimmable waterways are important to all New Zealanders, including dairy farmers, who share the same aspirations to protect our streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said the dairy sector and our farmers share the same vision communities, Maori and Government have to protect and improve our freshwater resources.

“The Essential Freshwater Package announced today provides a real opportunity for everyone to have their say in this important conversation. We know we can’t farm without healthy water and land, and we reflect this in our Dairy Tomorrow sector strategy, and we need to acknowledge the work that’s already taken place,” said Dr Mackle.

“Our dairy sector is already on the journey to improve and protect water quality and our farmers have been working towards this for more than a decade.”

Dr Mackle said at the same time it is acknowledged that, in some catchments, community expectations for water quality has not yet been met. Here, further action is required by all land users, including dairy, to halt a decline and longer-term solutions put in place to restore the health of these waterways.

“This policy package focuses not only on dairy but all land use activities, including sheep and beef, horticulture and urban activities, reflecting that we all have a part to play in improving our waterways,” said Dr Mackle.

But it doesn’t focus on bird life. The major contributor to the poor quality of some waterways is birds, for example the seagulls which nest on rocks beside the Kakanui River.

“We agree with a focus on ecosystem health and alongside this, options to better track the impact of improvements farmers are making to work towards this. However, we have serious concerns that the proposed approach of reducing nitrogen and phosphorus may not achieve improved ecosystem health and could have a significant impact on the viability of farm businesses and rural communities. We need to understand this better and what it means for our water quality, farmers and for the country.

“We know from experience that regulation is one tool, but hearts and minds are vital to create enduring change. We also want this to be grounded in facts and science, as well as economic and social analysis.

“Many things impact on ecosystem health, nutrients are often not the key driver. It will be important to recognise a catchment-by-catchment targeted approach as opposed to blanket one-size-fits all rules.

Solutions to problems in one catchment, or even part of a catchment, may not be applicable to all.

“We believe further uptake of Good Farming Practices and Farm Environment Plans across all farms, catchments and land users nationally is an effective way to accelerate further improvements,” said Dr Mackle. “Over 3000 farms already have a comprehensive Farm Environment Plan and we support that every farm has have one by 2025.

“Overall we support the intent of the Essential Freshwater Package but we haven’t been involved in its development, so we need to understand the proposed policies in more detail.

“It is important the policies contribute to meaningful improvements in water quality for the community and there are realistic expectations for all landowners.

“We believe on-farm initiatives are already contributing to maintaining or improving water quality across many catchments and the most recent LAWA report supports this, with almost all water quality measures showing more sites improving, than not.”

Dr Mackle said there is an opportunity to extend on the good work already done by promoting good farming principles across all catchments, farms and land owners. “This should build on successful sector initiatives, including the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord, and we don’t want to see our good work undone.

“Our farmers are adaptable and have made significant changes to how we farm over the last 30 years. We will continue to learn and make changes into the future,” said Dr Mackle.

“We recognise that over time, future land use may look different than it does today. It is important that farmers have the certainty, tools and adequate transition time to continue on the journey and make the changes that may be needed over the next generation.

“Looking forward, we are encouraged by the prospect of a vibrant primary sector and rural communities, benefiting from healthy and resilient waterways.”

These proposals are typical of so many of the governments that don’t follow the science and take a balanced approach to sustainability taking into account economic, environmental and social impacts.

Water quality degraded over many years and reversing that will take time.

You can download a copy of Action for Healthy Waterways here.


Rural round-up

August 22, 2019

600 farmers in big water project

Large-scale initiative in Southland expected to have big effect on water quality:

You could say it’s “ace” that more than 600 farmers and multiple agencies are working together to improve water quality in the Aparima catchment area in the deep south.

ACE – otherwise known as the Aparima Community Environment (ACE) project – is a farmer-led initiative in Southland aimed at over 600 farms spread over 207,000 hectares – with 81 per cent of that area developed. It has multi-agency participation with DairyNZ, Beef & Lamb and Environment Southland involved.

The ace thing about ACE, says DairyNZ’s strategy and investment leader for responsible dairying, Dr David Burger, is its enormous scale and the intent to support all land managers in good farming practice. It will also track what happens on every single farm in the six Aparima catchment groups – Pourakino, Lower Aparima, Orepuki, Mid Aparima, Upper Aparima and Waimatuku – and relate this to water quality downstream. . . 

Federated Farmers hails court ruling as a win for Rotorua community:

The voices of farmers in Rotorua, led by Federated Farmers, have been instrumental in the Environment Court’s rejection of Land Use Capability (LUC) as a tool for nitrogen allocation.

Federated Farmers, along with the Lake Rotorua Primary Producers Collective, has been fighting a proposal by Rotorua Lakes Council, forestry and others seeking to allocate nitrogen discharges using LUC methodology.  With evidence from member farmers in the catchment, as well as by engaging experts and consultants, Federated Farmers demonstrated the LUC proposal would fail farm businesses and their communities to the point of potential ruin, Feds environment spokesperson Chris Allen said.

“It would also have had a more uncertain environmental outcome than the original proposal  by Bay of Plenty Regional Council in Plan Change 10,” he said.

“We’re pleased the Court comprehensively rejected the LUC proposal that would have required nitrogen discharge reductions of 80% by dairy farmers and 40% by drystock farmers.  In contrast, the allocation for forestry would have increased six fold. This would have meant that most farmers would have had to lease back nitrogen (that had been transferred to forestry) in order to continue farming.” . . 

Forget about another share trading review – Sudesh Kissun:

Former Fonterra director Nicola Shadbolt says the recent collapse of a few dairy cooperatives should be blamed on their strategy, not their co-op structure.

She says the collapse of Australia’s biggest dairy co-op Murray Goulburn and the demise of Westland Milk co-op on the West Coast is not about their structure.

“It is governance, it is strategy. I mean for every two co-ops that fail there are about a thousand corporates… nobody says of the corporates that it’s their business model. But with co-ops it’s always their business model that is blamed.”

Shadbolt, a fierce proponent of the cooperative model, is aware of moves by some farmers and a few directors to return capital structure to the table. . .

Is there a future for OZ Fonterra as Fonterra’s finances unravel – Keith Woodford:

Fonterra’s announcement that it expects a loss of around $600 million or more for the year ended 31 July 2019 has big ramifications for Oz Fonterra.  With overseas-milk pools now lying outside the central focus of Fonterra’s new strategy, and with Fonterra seriously short of capital, the Australian-milk pool and associated processing assets look increasingly burdensome.

If Fonterra were to divest its Australian operations, then it would demonstrate that Fonterra really is retreating to be a New Zealand producer of New Zealand dairy ingredients. It would also reinforce the notion that consumer-branded products are now largely beyond its reach.

This strategic position is close to where Fonterra was in around 2006, when it decided that it was 50 years too late to take on the likes of Nestlé.  It did have both Australian and Chilean operations at that time but they were smaller than now. It also took on an initial shareholding in Chinese San Lu at that time, but essentially Fonterra saw itself as a New Zealand-based co-operative. . .

Agriculture fears it will be milked by EU free trade deal – Mike Foley:

Australia risks trading away hundreds of millions of dollars in agricultural earnings if it doesn’t negotiate significant concessions from the European Union.

That’s according to industry groups Australian Dairy Farmers and the National Farmers’ Federation, which warned Trade Minister Simon Birmingham the EU will have to reduce its onerous tariffs and import barriers to make a free trade agreement (FTA).

“There would be no point in doing the deal for Australian farmers if we can’t see a realistic and positive outcome from this FTA,” NFF president Tony Mahar said. . . 

Want to protect the planet? Eat more beef, not less – Patrick Holden:

If students and staff at Goldsmiths University really want to help the environment, they should end their ban on selling beef on campus. Far from being the bogeymen portrayed by environmental campaigners, sustainably farmed beef and dairy cattle are integral to maintaining our green and pleasant land, keeping our waterways free of chemicals and feeding our population in the most efficient manner possible.

Two thirds of UK farmland is under grass and in most cases cannot be used for other crops. The only responsible way to convert this into food is to feed it to cattle, which are capable of deriving 100 per cent of their nutrition from grass and therefore are more efficient on such land than chickens or pigs. Even on grassland where crops could be grown, ploughing it up to create arable farms would release huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and require the use of pesticides, herbicides and fertiliser, all of which can devastate biodiversity.

Cattle farming does not just help to maintain grassland – it also works to improve the sustainability of existing cropland.  . . 


One size doesn’t fit all water

August 22, 2019

Federated Farmers is sending the government a strong message on water quality:

A ‘one size fits all’, inflexible and punitive regulatory regime for water quality just gets backs – and costs – up and most importantly will not work, Federated Farmers says.

“We have consistently argued that farmers will get alongside and work with sensible, practical and affordable catchment-based solutions based on an accurate assessment of the actual water quality,” Feds environment spokesperson Chris Allen says.

Labour and the Greens both tried to sell one-size for all policies before the election and every time they did support for national improved.

Environment Minister David Parker has said announcements on tighter regulations on the agricultural sector are imminent.

“We all want good, fresh water.  All of us – farmers included – need, and have effects on, water quality whether we drink it, use it for some commercial purpose or recreate in it.

“The question is how you drive water quality improvements.  There’s no doubt there is a place for rules and regulation, but they must take into account the circumstances of each catchment – soil types, land uses and community priorities to name a few,” Allen said.

What is needed and what works for one water way is not necessarily what will work and what’s needed for another.

“We must keep up the momentum with the water quality improvements we are already seeing in many catchments, not cut across this with cumbersome, draconian, one-size-fits-all regulations.”

Federated Farmers believes regional councils should be required to go through the nutrient limit setting process as per the current National Policy Statement, “with a stick approach to achieve it,” Allen said.

“Some councils haven’t done it, and that’s a problem.  If the reason is capacity issues for smaller councils, the government could help with resourcing. But we have to bear in mind that these processes are complex and take time.”

On stock exclusion, the issue is about keeping stock out of water, not mandatory and arbitrary setbacks.  A significant amount of work has already been done by farmers applying the appropriate method to achieve stock exclusion.

“In dairy districts, we should build on the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord.  Farmers have already invested huge amounts of time and effort, resulting in outcomes including stock being excluded from waterways on 97.5% of dairy farms, and more than 99.7% of regular stock crossing points on dairy farms now having bridges or culverts. We are seeing the improvements form this sort of work coming though. For example, a recent regional council report shows that water quality in Taranaki rivers is showing long-term improvement.  Nearly half the rivers showed significant improvement, which has flowed from the stock exclusion, extensive riparian plantings farmers have done and changes to effluent disposal.

“There are now a lot of regional councils which do have good rules for stock exclusion, based on what is needed for their region.  They are fit for purpose and farmers have gone on and are living with them. Councils that don’t have rules are a minority and need to get on with the job.” 

If councils already have rules which work, they should be left to carry on with them.

Any proposed changes should be underpinned by robust cost-benefit analysis and rather than bald measurements of attributes (nitrogen, turbidity, phosphorus, etc) the catchment-based improvement programmes should be geared around the values the local community rate as the priorities – for example, can you swim in it, can fish and macroinvertebrates thrive in it, Allen said.

They should also take into account nature’s contribution to water pollution, like the nesting seagulls which foul several rivers, including the Kakanui from which we get our drinking water.

“When we do issue national environmental reports, the findings should come with the full picture.  What was the season like – hot, dry, wet…all of those things affect water quality and we need that context, not just bald numbers from a very limited number of sites.”

Farmers would also like to see consistency in approach across the sectors, and appropriate recognition of where changes that have been made, whether by urban or rural sectors, that are delivering improvements to water quality. 

Consistency would be a much needed improvement on current rules, or at least the application of them, that take a much more lenient approach to councils that allow storm water and sewerage to pollute waterways and beaches than it does to farmers.

Recognition of changes already made would help ensure those who are already doing their bit aren’t penalised to help the laggards.

Clean water is essential for human health and plays a big role in recreation.

We all have an interest in making improvements, it’s how it’s done is worrying farmers.

 


Rural round-up

July 27, 2019

Huge challenge facing RMA review panel:

Federated Farmers believes the Government has set a substantial challenge in its announcement of a review into the Resource Management Act.

The organisation agrees with Environment Minister David Parker that because of frequent amendments, the RMA is now overly cumbersome, costly and complex.

“The review will be no easy task. It will need to consider wide and diverse opinions and concerns. There are few organisations which have been more intricately and routinely involved in resource management processes across the country since the Act first came into force than Federated Farmers, so we consider our active input on the review panel will be vital,” Federated Farmers resource management spokesperson Chris Allen says. . .

Eliminating ‘M bovis’ tough but correct call – Peter Bodeker:

The Ministry for Primary Industries remains confident it can eradicate M.bovis from New Zealand,  Peter Bodeker says.

July marks two years since Mycoplasma bovis was first detected in New Zealand, kicking off the largest biosecurity response we’ve ever seen.

Along with the entire country, Otago has been affected – facing immense challenges in dealing with this disease, and the ongoing effort to eradicate it. . .

More Miraka farmers win for excellence :

Miraka’s insistence on sustainable farming practices has shown results in more farms winning honours in the recent Te Ara Miraka farming excellence awards.

“Since establishing the awards four years ago we’ve started to see significant change in on farm practices,” says Grant Jackson, general manager milk supply. “

We’re not just meeting the regulations, that’s mandatory for us. Rather we’re going over and above, to achieve excellence in animal welfare, sustainable land management, looking after employees and premium quality milk.”  . . 

Young Farmer passionate about improving dairy’s environmental footprint :

A pair of fantails flit above Robert Barry’s head as he bends down to inspect a predator trap at the base of a totara tree.

The towering native is in a pristine bush block on a farm owned by the BEL Group near Waipukurau in central Hawke’s Bay.

The eight-hectare block is protected by a Queen Elizabeth II Trust covenant and is dotted with almost a dozen traps. . . 

Tenure agreement reached for Canterbury high country station

A tenure review agreement has been reached for the North Canterbury high country station, Island Hills.

Under the soon-to-be scrapped tenure review process, leased high-country Crown land can be signed over to farmers, provided they set aside areas for conservation.

Land Information New Zealand said 1600 hectares would be transferred to the Crown as conservation estate and 3200 will be freehold subject to conservation covenants, that restricts activities such as grazing and vegetation clearance.

The remaining 200 hectares would be freehold without restrictions. . . 

How do riparian strips fare long term – Bert Quin:

Could our riparian systems become overloaded and therefore useless? Riparian strips are correctly promoted as useful tools for reducing environmental pollution, especially for their ability to filter out faecal bacteria and sediment before these enter streams. But there is much more to it, writes Bert Quin.

Many frequently made claims for the ability of riparian strips to improve water quality are based on very short-term studies only. This is particularly true of phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) removal.

Unfortunately, we are now in the days of emphasis on short-term, quick-results trials that lend themselves to publication in many different journals to ensure more cash from equally short-sighted funding organisations and companies with vested interests. . .


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