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.