Good and bad news in clean-stream snapshot

18/03/2011

A newsletter to shareholders from Fonterra chair Sir Henry van der Heyden says there’s good and bad news in the dairying and clean streams accord snapshot: 

  • Good news is we’re making headway.
    • Full compliance with effluent rules up 5% to 65%
    • 99% of farms have nutrient budgets
    • 85% of stock excluded from waterways
    • Less than 2% of farms need crossings bridged or culverted
  • Bad news is there’s been a 1% increase in significant effluent non-compliance from15% to 16%.

Fonterra said  the slight increase in significant non-compliance with regional council dairy effluent rules was unacceptable, but believed its Every Farm Every Year inspections regime was a concerted effort to turn this result around.

Today’s Dairying and Clean Streams Accord snapshot for the 2009/10 season shows significant national non-compliance rose by 1% to 16%, despite considerable improvements in Northland, Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago.

Fonterra Group Director Supplier and External Relations, Kelvin Wickham said Every Farm Every Year was a concerted effort to address non-compliance by identifying farms at risk and ensuring remedial plans were put in place.

“The programme got underway nationally in August so it was never going to change last season’s results. But what is encouraging is that the compliance message is getting through and farmers are taking it seriously. That’s also evident in the snapshot results for full compliance which rose 5% to 65% last season.”

He said Fonterra’s Sustainable Dairying Advisors have completed 1188 consultations with farmers keen to ensure their on-farm effluent infrastructure is able to cope with the year-round demands put on it. Farms are referred to the advisors if the Every Farm Every Year inspection identifies properties at risk of non-compliance, but Mr Wickham said some farmers had also proactively sought advice ahead of their farm’s assessment.

“Our initiative is beginning to have a positive impact with farmers willing to accept advice and to spend the money needed to improve their effluent systems. By the end of this season we expect to have 1,000 remedial plans in place. Since August, 252 farms have already completed their plans and a further 582 are underway. There are no quick fixes but farmers are working hard to get it right and in many cases a significant investment is needed to ensure systems are compliant 365 days a year.”

Mr Wickham said good progress was being made on other Accord targets and Fonterra was this year highlighting the work of five farmers who were contributing to this progress.

Work done by these farmers who have put the Dairying  Accord into action can be seen here.  Their work includes improved fertiliser management, fencing waterways and tree planting.

“Across the country there is a lot of good work going on unnoticed and while we know there’s more work to be done, it’s also appropriate to acknowledge the real efforts being made.”

The snapshot showed 85% of farms nationally now have stock excluded from waterways and in Northland, Canterbury, Otago and Southland 90% have been excluded. Less than 2% of farms required bridges or culverts for waterways. Nutrient budgets had been adopted by 99% of farms but the challenge now was to work towards full management plans where nutrient inputs and outputs are measured and managed.

“The results show a lot of good effort has gone in from farmers, regional councils and organisations like DairyNZ and Every Farm Every Year is stepping up the effort in the key area of compliance.”

Farms working through remedial plans include those which could pass a compliance spot check, but farmers still accepted the work had to be done.

“Every Farm Every Year assesses whether an on-farm system is fit for purpose 365 days a year. This is about risk assessment and mitigation, not compliance monitoring. It’s not enough for a farm to comply 90% of the time. Year round compliance is what we are looking for and that’s where we are heading.”

Mr Wickham said risk factors being identified on farms mirrored those identified in the Dairying and Cleans Streams Accord snapshot.

“We know effluent storage capacity, irrigation systems and feed pads or standoffs are all potential trouble spots. Without adequate storage farmers can’t defer irrigation in wet conditions and Every Farm Every Year helps them recognise that. They are also recognising the value of effluent as a source of nutrients and can see the money spent on upgrading systems has a relatively quick payback through better grass growth and productivity.”

He said new tools like the Massey University effluent pond storage calculator were invaluable for ensuring individual farms had storage matched to soil types, herd size, production days, yard and feedpad areas and irrigation capacity. DairyNZ had also successfully established a new industry code of practice to ensure the design and installation of effluent systems meets set standards. Positive working relationships between regional councils, Fonterra and DairyNZ also meant farmers were getting good information and practical programmes such as open days.

“There is a lot of commitment out there and both Fonterra and our farmers are taking sustainability very seriously. There’s a way to go, but the effort is going in and we are starting to see some promising results.”

Agriculture Minsiter Minister David Carter said farmers are slowly taking heed of the need to lift their game to prevent pollution.

Mr Carter says that while progress could be faster, the message is gradually getting through to those farmers who have struggled with effluent compliance, and are now looking to their industry bodies and regional councils for support

“For example, in Canterbury, the ‘Check it, fix it, get it right’ initiative has been working to provide information and advice to farmers on adopting good effluent management practices.

“In the 2009/10 dairy season, 59 percent of Canterbury dairy farms were fully compliant with their dairy-shed effluent discharge conditions, up from 43 percent in the previous season. Significant non-compliance fell to 8 percent from 19 percent in the previous season.

“This initiative is now being rolled out throughout the North Island, and Southland.

The 2009/10 Snapshot shows progress has been made on four of the five targets set by the Accord.

Mr Carter also notes that Fonterra’s Every Farm Every Year checks of effluent management expects to have about 1000 farms on remedial plans by the end of the current dairy season.

“It’s encouraging that many of those farmers did not wait to be checked, but got in touch with the co-operative to ask for the plan.

“While it can’t be directly attributed to those initiatives, Environment Waikato has reported that significant non-compliance has more than halved in the season-to-date, with just 11 percent of farmers in serious breach of regional planning rules.”

“There is now a good deal of education, training and technological innovation underway in the dairy sector, all aimed at maintaining productivity while reducing environmental impact,” says Mr Carter.

Farmers in our area are taking the Accord very seriously. Most are motivated by the determination to keep the water they drink and swim in clean.

For the few for whom that carrot isn’t sufficient there’s the stick of severe and costly consequences of falling foul of regional council requirements. There’s also the knowlege that Fonterra has lost patience with the minority who are deliberately or carelessly polluting waterways and tarring all dairy farmers with their dirty brush.

The full snapshot is here.


Keeping waterways clean

03/10/2008

A report by Fish and Game and Forest and Bird concludes that the Dairy and Clean Streams Accord:

 has failed to achieve its major goal to reduce the impact of dairying on the quality of New Zealand’s streams, rivers, lakes, goundwater and wetlands.

Susie McKeague, Otago Regional Council  manager of land resources said that in South and West Otago there was a declining trend in ammonia as a result of fencing and planting along waterways, the Clutha River was clean because the volume of water diluted contaminants but water quality in small streams and tributaries was deteriorating.

She put this down to intensive farming on wet soils. Fencing and planting along waterways to keep animals away from them helps prevent run off, but dung and urine move through the soil structure and leach into waterways. One solution to this would be more use of feed pads, particularly in winter when it rained more, so that animals weren’t on the paddocks when they were soaked.

North Otago waterways are cleaner than those further south and Susie put this down to a drier climate and the Environmental Farm Plans which are a requirement for every farm which gets water from the North Otago Irrigation Company.

“The EFPs are the best choice for environmental protection and they are driving good practice more than anything in other areas,” she said.

Susie said that it would be impossible to protect waterways from pollution during floods but at other times it was necessary to capture everything on farm or have remedies if more nutrients than desirable leached into water.

“For example, if phosphorus makes algae grow then we need something to reduce any concentration of phosphorus.”

Susie believes that the best way to solve any problems is to tell farmers what the issues are and leave them to find solutions.

“They have the best ideas to achieve what’s needed. Farmers are switched on, well networked and they know how to find answers.

“EFPs are making a difference in areas we didn’t anticipate and are leading change. Farmers are monitoring soil moisture, irrigation scheduling and effluent disposal and have a real desire to get it right.”


%d bloggers like this: