New regulations come into force next week, restricting the sowing of winter crops to slopes less than 10 degrees, limit pugging and require grazed paddocks to be resowed by early October.
But, with most farmers unlikely to meet all the new standards, most are expected to require resource consent, which regional councils say they will struggle to process on time.
Invercargill-based Agribusiness Consultants’ Deane Carson says with farmers preparing to sow next year’s winter crops, they need answers quickly, but they are confused.
“It is a great big confusing mess, with many of the systems needed for change currently non-existent,” Carson said.
“There is a void, a total lack of information and a total lack of direction.
“Every farmer I speak to is confused and many are angry.
“Farmers need the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) to step up and clarify rule intent and councils need to hurry up with the process of delivery and compliance for these rules.
“Given the timeframes available, a more realistic outcome would be messaging a relaxed compliance against regulations, to allow all parties some time to breath and take stock.
“Time pressures are heightening concerns.”
Part of the confusion is caused by farmers having two sets of rules for winter grazing management: Environment Southland and the Governments.
Environment Southland adopted a slope measure which allows cropping up to 20 degrees without resource consent. The Government has adopted a paddock measure which allows cropping up to 10 degrees.
The regulations state that those which are most stringent are to be followed.
Given the uncertainty and information vacuum, Carson is advising farmers to sit tight but to think about how to apply the intent of the regulation as they prepare their crops for next winter.
“I am trying to get farmers to apply the intent of the regulations even though regional councils and the Government aren’t able to provide detail,” he said.
Carson believes the Government’s real agenda with the winter grazing regulations is to reduce dairy cow numbers in Southland.
Tighter rules have already reduced the number of dairy grazers in Southland, and Carson says this latest suite of regulations will force a further reduction in the number of cows that can be wintered and, therefore, shrinkage in the size of the Southland herd.