Un­ac­cept­able to con­tinue bleed­ing land dry

Manawatu Guardian - - NEWS - By A DAY

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers re­cently awarded a tin plate each to the own­ers of a hill coun­try farm near Gis­borne. Out­stand­ingly the farm ran a profit due to size and stock num­bers, but its hills are de­nuded of trees.

Over­stock­ing and no trees equals ero­sion. Tax­pay­ers fund free trees to stop this. It ap­pears to me that the dairy in­dus­try does lit­tle to force en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism, merely re­act­ing to bad PR when needed.

Why is the profit a farm makes the only in­dus­try bench­mark while down­stream cost to the land is borne by the en­tire pop­u­la­tion?

If these en­vi­ron­men­tal and tax­payer costs due to flood­ing, drought, agri­chem­i­cal runoff, and loss and dam­age to ecosys­tems are fac­tored in, a farm could not ex­ist, mak­ing the agri­chem­i­cal farm­ing sys­tem de­funct. Luck­ily the real costs of farm­ing are spread na­tion­wide in gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies. I could say I made a profit too if I took 20 bucks off a stranger and put it in a pokey ma­chine and won $2.

There’s talk of a ru­ral-city di­vide. But very few of us haven’t lived, worked or know farm­ing fam­i­lies.

We are all con­nected to the land and to the cities. Farm­ers are di­verse but the col­lec­tive is rep­re­sented by in­dus­try and lob­by­ists who act out of self­in­ter­est and ul­ti­mately against the farm­ers they say are their co­hort. When Fed­er­ated Farm­ers or Dairy NZ with re­gional coun­cils deny en­vi­ron­men­tal science and re­place it with equiv­o­ca­tions, they hold up non­par­ti­san progress in the sec­tor. This is equally when good wages and con­di­tions of work­ers in pro­cess­ing fac­to­ries or safety regimes on farms are de­nied. It’s a dis­credit. Ag­i­tate for less reg­u­la­tion and wind up with un­tram­melled dis­ease out­breaks.

Some farm­ers mythol­o­gise them­selves as cus­to­di­ans of the land but that’s no longer enough. Fred Dagg is dead, land needs pro­tect­ing and it’s un­ac­cept­able to con­tinue bleed­ing it dry.

Most peo­ple are aware now that it’s not the 20th cen­tury and heavy agri­chem­i­cal in­puts are a race to the bot­tom fi­nan­cially and eco­log­i­cally.

This is not an at­tack and I’m not alone. The mas­sive in­dus­try can’t claim vic­tim­hood when it con­stantly holds it­self as a shin­ing light of the econ­omy. And as the largest landowner in the coun­try with all the ben­e­fits that af­fords, they should ex­pect to be, as city dwellers are, reg­u­lated and ac­count­able in more ways than in the past. Farm­ers should ditch re­gional chrony­is­tic coun­cil­lors. And dump the lob­by­ists who do busi­ness that coun­ters pos­i­tive change. Let in the Mike Joys of the sec­tor who ac­tu­ally care and have the science to back it up.

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