Wednesday, July 6, 2022

EDITORIAL: Stoush stuck in the creek

The year has hardly begun and already it is clear farmers are in the crosshairs.

Summer’s the time for swimming and so it is that the quality of that water is headline news. The stoush between Greenpeace and DairyNZ is unfortunate and both sides could do with breathing through their noses for a bit — though the likelihood of that is about the same as me catching a trout this year.

DairyNZ rightly claims farmers are doing an awful lot to clean up their act. Fencing and planting of waterways, modern effluent systems and lowering of stocking rates are all part of the environmental plan for most farmers.

Greenpeace has once again over-egged its omelette a bit, giving the impression dairy is solely responsible for all our water woes. Late last week it put out a statement pointing out how DairyNZ and farmers here were looking to ramp up intensification once more.

An even-handed look at the industry would dismiss that notion pretty quickly, however. One quick reading of Waikato’s new Healthy Rivers plan would show converting a farm to dairy is pretty difficult when you have to emit fewer nutrients that the previous user. This is par for the course across New Zealand now, with many regional councils rightly seeking to cap their nutrient loads.

And, I’d venture that the white gold rush, where farmers were lining up to go dairy when the payout was up north of $7, is over. What goes up must come down — and having seen the bottom end of that commodity cycle in the past year, farmers thinking of converting will be having second thoughts.

Look, there’s a communication problem on both sides here. We’re slinging slogans across the creek rather than sharing ideas and solutions. It being election year, the chances of that changing appear slim. We can but hope.

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