FARM­ING Fon­terra needs to pay green farm­ers


Fon­terra should re­ward en­vi­ron­men­tally-con­scious dairy farm­ers with bonus pay­ments which would pro­vide an in­cen­tive for other farm­ers need­ing to re­duce their foot­print.

This car­rot rather than stick ap­proach would help lift farm­ers at the bot­tom to a bet­ter en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dard, award-win­ning dairy farmer Rod McKin­non said.

It was time to end the ‘‘stick men­tal­ity’’ in farm­ing where com­pa­nies tried to beat farm­ers up at the bot­tom.

‘‘I’m a car­rot per­son. If you give me an in­cen­tive, I’m go­ing to work to­wards that. I think the dairy com­pa­nies – the big one that I sup­ply – per­haps they could learn from that smaller dairy com­pany in the South Is­land called Syn­lait.’’

He and wife San­dra won the supreme award at the Waikato Farm En­vi­ron­ment Awards and hosted about 60 peo­ple at a field day on their 194 hectare farm near Mata­mata.

Dairy com­pa­nies Syn­lait and Mi­raka op­er­ated schemes where farm­ers were given pay­ment bonuses above the milk pay­ment for meet­ing cri­te­ria.

McKin­non said Syn­lait’s lead with pride phi­los­o­phy in­cluded pay­ment in­cen­tives for farm­ers to do well.

‘‘Maybe that’s where we should be head­ing. It’s time to be car­rots, not sticks. Syn­lait has a great pro­gramme. Their lead with pride is a re­ally strong case for what they are do­ing.’’

McKin­non is ‘‘frus­trated’’ that some farm­ers were do­ing their part to re­duce their en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact, yet other farm­ers were not and they were re­ceiv­ing the same price for their milk.

‘‘It is im­por­tant to us that ev­ery­one is brought up to a stan­dard ... If the farmer down the road finds they are get­ting 20 cents less than me. They’ll do some­thing about it.’’

He sus­pected Fon­terra’s size and co-op­er­a­tive struc­ture where it had to be fair to all its sup­pli­ers in­hib­ited it from cre­at­ing a scheme.

He said En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter David Parker had a point when he re­cently called for tighter con­trols for farm­ers on nu­tri­ent lim­its.

‘‘Not so much around re­duc­ing cow num­bers and things like that, but re­duc­ing what we are putting into the en­vi­ron­ment.’’

McKin­non said they were ‘‘gen­uinely thrilled’’ to have won the award, es­pe­cially the stew­ard­ship and sus­tain­abil­ity cat­e­gory awards.

‘‘That was re­ally im­por­tant to us be­cause that’s what we have been do­ing for 25 years. We didn’t know we were do­ing it, but that’s what we have been do­ing.’’

‘‘San­dra and I have de­vel­oped this phi­los­o­phy that less is more and we gen­uinely be­lieve that go­ing for­ward that’s where we all [have to be].’’

Waikato Fed­er­ated Farm­ers pres­i­dent and Fon­terra sup­plier An­drew McGiven said calls for an in­cen­tive scheme had been can­vassed at past share­holder meet­ings, but re­jected by of­fi­cials.

‘‘They seem to think there is a fair­ness is­sue with Fon­terra be­ing a co-op­er­a­tive, but I don’t see any is­sues with in­cen­tivis­ing farm­ers to do best prac­tice.’’

Fon­terra’s Ti­aki sus­tain­able dairy pro­gramme was push­ing the co-op­er­a­tive to­wards an in­cen­tives scheme. He said a scheme may be looked at once Ti­aki was fully rolled out across the coun­try.

The in­creased com­pe­ti­tion on Waikato’s dairy land­scape could also spur Fon­terra to de­velop an in­cen­tive scheme, he said.

‘‘The milk en­vi­ron­ment is get­ting more com­pet­i­tive and they will need to start look­ing at th­ese in­cen­tives or added ons. They talk about the value add of the milk in the fin­ished prod­uct, why not talk about value add at the start of the process as well.’’

Fon­terra has been ap­proached for com­ment.

Rod and San­dra Mckin­non won the supreme award at the Waikato Farm En­vi­ron­ment Awards.

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