Monday, April 22, 2024

Changes to grazing rules

Neal Wallace
The Government is proposing to adopt virtually all the changes suggested by the Southland Winter Grazing advisory group to its widely slated intensive winter grazing (IWG) rules. It has started consultation on the proposals, which include replacing the date by which winter crop paddocks must be resown to “as soon as practical” and removing pugging depth rules.
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The Government is proposing to adopt virtually all the changes suggested by the Southland Winter Grazing advisory group to its widely slated intensive winter grazing (IWG) rules.

It has started consultation on the proposals, which include replacing the date by which winter crop paddocks must be resown to “as soon as practical” and removing pugging depth rules.

It also proposes delaying implementing these rules by six months to November 1 next year, and while rejecting the group’s recommendation that rules on cropping paddocks apply to those 15 degrees and steeper, rather than 10 degrees, farmers say they have been improved.

Southland Federated Farmers vice president and a member of the advisory group Bernadette Hunt says the onus is now on farmers to use environment plans to plan and manage their cropping programmes.

Hunt says those employing IWG practices should be given early access to farm environment plans (FEPs) when formally launched, so they can comply with the new grazing requirements.

She says the proposals target and manage critical source areas in cropped paddocks to avoid runoff.

“They are much more practical for farmers and I am convinced will mean much better outcomes for water quality because they are focused on the actual effects of land use,” Hunt said.

The proposed changes replace initial rules that were widely canned as impractical and unworkable, prompting the Government to convene an advisory group to find more practical solutions, which Hunt says has been achieved.

In addition to removing rules on pugging depth and a requirement for cropped paddocks to be resown by October 1, the original provisions applying to the average slope of a paddock have been changed to the maximum slope in a paddock.

If farmers can show they can mitigate any environmental effects of IWG through their farm plans and sound practices on slopes, such as preventing soil loss, then they can crop slopes over 10 degrees or exclude steep areas.

Beef + Lamb NZ chief executive Sam McIvor says the Government’s new focus on practical measures to manage environmental impacts, is more workable, but he still has concerns with the slope rule.

“The Government has proposed an improvement on the slope rule, but we still think the approach is more restrictive than it needs to be to manage the environmental risks,” Sam McIvor said.

“For example, we’d like to see flexibility in situations where there is no receiving water body nearby.”

The six month deferral in implementation will allow time for certified management plans to be put in place, but McIvor also wants more detail on how the farm plan process applies to IWG.

“Without having visibility of the exact text of the certified freshwater farm plan, however, and given the requirement to demonstrate environmental outcomes would be the same as the rules, we have reservations about how workable the proposed farm plan approach will actually be.”

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle also supports the use of farm plans, but also has reservations until he sees the details.

“Ultimate success here does depend on a robust certified freshwater farm plan process (but) this is yet to be landed,” Mackle said.

“The phasing in of freshwater farm plans will lead to a delay in this pathway being available for farmers. 

“This is a concern for practical and flexible implementation of the regulations and we need this remedied.”

Environment Minister David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor describe the proposed changes as practical while ensuring improved environmental outcomes.

“It’s important that what we develop is workable. That’s why we’re proposing amendments to manage the effects of pugging, get paddocks resown as soon as possible, and protect critical source areas,” O’Connor said.

Consultation runs for six weeks until October 7.

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