Sunday, August 14, 2022

All systems go as start date, details for nitrogen reporting emerge

Neal Wallace
Delays in developing systems give dairy farmers a few extra months to get their data in.

Farmers have an extra few months to report their synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use for the previous year due to delays in developing systems to handle the data.

The policy requires dairy farmers to report by July 31 each year their synthetic nitrogen use in the previous year to June 30, but this deadline has now been extended to allow time for new reporting systems to be operative.

Richard Saunders, the Otago Regional Council’s regulatory and communication manager and project lead for Te Uru Kahika, the newly established Regional and Unitary Councils body, said farmers will not face action for the late lodging of submissions.

This year fertiliser use to June 30 is required to be registered from August 29, but farmers will have until at least October to submit the data.

“This approach recognises the short delay in the delivery of the new reporting tools,” Saunders said.

Councils and the two largest fertiliser companies have developed three internet-based reporting tools to record synthetic nitrogen use on grazed land: Ravensdown’s HawkEye, Ballance’s MyBallance and the regional sector’s N-cap.

The fertiliser companies have had additional functionality added to existing web-based sites to record fertiliser applications.

When putting in nitrogen use data, farmers will have to give permission for the information to be forwarded to their relevant council.

The regional sector’s N-Cap web portal requires manual calculation of the same information.

“A calculation spreadsheet is available for download which guides you through how to create the required records,” said Saunders.

“This includes information such as the farm business entity, fertiliser purchases, landholding, land use along with dates, volume, and types of synthetic nitrogen application.”

This information is entered into a form in the web portal and the data is then submitted securely to the appropriate regional and unitary council.

“Councils have taken a pragmatic approach to the issue of compliance. Our focus is on supporting farmers to comply with the new regulations,” said Saunders.

Federated Farmers board member Colin Hurst described the situation as “confusing” and the organisation is seeking clarity from the government and Ministry for the Environment (MFE).

Hurst said it is another example of legislation being rushed through Parliament before tools and systems are ready to make it work.

An MFE spokesperson said the ministry has been informed of the delay and has taken “a neutral position” as this is a matter for councils and farmers to manage.

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