Farmers already cleaned up act
Thirty years ago, 90 per cent of the issues in rivers came from the back ends of cows. Now that is less than 5 per cent.
Farmers are doing their bit and we should look at where the other 95 per cent of the issues come from.
Have Mike ‘‘the Eel Man’’ Joy and his sidekicks got the science on the effects of introduced species such as trout, koi carp and ducks, on waterways like Hamilton Lake?
Perhaps they should apply for a $300,000 Waikato River Authority grant to do the research around the impact of other species on our waterways. Do I need to apply on their behalf?
When it comes to crazy ideas on cleaning up waterways, I noted in a recent Jon Morgan column Mr Joy is again calling to restrict farms to one cow per two hectares. Mr Joy has to get real. These restrictions would effectively wipe out about 85 per cent of the national herd.
This would not just reduce dairy farmers’ incomes; it would make most uneconomic.
It is not greed which drives us to increase production. It is the need to contend with rising costs, including compliance. Further increasing costs while slashing herds would put most of us out of business and potentially collapse the country’s economy as dairy exports plummeted.
One absolute way to account for effluent was rejected out of hand a couple of years ago in the South Island.
I found the public outcry around the proposals for indoor dairy farming operations in the Mackenzie Basin at odds with the environmental demands made by Mr Joy and many others. Such farming practices would allow farmers to account for every drop of effluent expelled from an animal but the suggestion raised the hackles of traditional farming’s greatest critics. These critics also need to realise there is plenty of change happening in the dairy industry.
Between council policing and penalties and the best-practice incentives and education provided by the likes of Dairynz and Fonterra, the industry is rapidly cleaning up its act.
If we had our heads in the sand, as Mr Joy and co believe, Waikato would not have seen the huge reduction in consent noncompliance last year.
That is not to say some farmers couldn’t do better. I have often said there is no room in dairy for farmers who ignore regulations or consent conditions.
It is regional councils’ job to protect the environment and those in the agriculture business have to be prepared for the day when council staff make an inspection visit. Farmers should have action plans with clear lines of accountability and direction.
I would love to see the day when farmers welcome regional council staff on their farms to improve farmers’ environmental attitudes, management and systems.
I want them to feel cheated if they aren’t visited.
These visits are along the lines of getting pulled over at a police breath- testing checkpoint.
Bad people have something to fear but for law-abiding citizens they are part of everyday life. How now society frowns on drink drivers. This has been a positive culture change. While other travellers complain about delays, farmers feel cheated if they are not interrogated by Ministry of Agriculture staff when returning from overseas.
They are acutely aware their ability to provide for their families is at risk from foreign plant and animal diseases and parasites.
So who will be held accountable for the latest potential biosecurity breach; allowing ‘‘Buzzy’’ strawberry plant kits to be sold at The Warehouse?
Instead of being quarantined after arriving from China, these kits were released straight on to the market.
If you have one, they need to be returned for a full refund of $3.99 at The Warehouse stores, or if planted out and growing they should be thrown, dirt and all, into the rubbish to be buried in landfill. Do not compost them. What is at stake? There is every possibility previously unknown viruses could escape ‘‘into the wild’’ and devastate an agricultural or horticultural industry.
The kiwifruit growers staring at financial oblivion following the introduction of the Psa-v virus in the Bay of Plenty are well aware of the consequences.
With viable samples of the virus found in the air above orchards and fears it has spread as far as Auckland, things are looking grim for the whole industry.
The Environment Court’s decision on Variation 6 of the proposed Waikato Regional Plan looks to be a big improvement on what was originally put forward, validating the work and expense to the Agricultural Working Group, which included among others Federated Farmers and Fonterra.
The lawyers are still looking at the decision’s ramifications and interpretations but my initial feeling is paying for this action was money well spent.
This is a much better outcome than the Federation or the other parties alone could have negotiated.
Environmental omic sense.
ideas must make