Thursday, April 25, 2024

N cap clearer but DairyNZ seeks more flexibility

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DairyNZ has welcomed guidance from the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) guidance that gives dairy farmers clarity on how to meet the Government’s synthetic nitrogen (N) fertiliser cap regulations, but says it will still seek more changes.
Dr David Burger, DairyNZ’s general manager sustainable dairy, says farmers have been dealing with ‘an unprecedented level of regulatory change’ over the past six years.
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DairyNZ strategy and investment leader Dr David Burger says there must be a flexible approach in how farmers can report to regional councils on their nitrogen fertiliser use next year.

DairyNZ has welcomed guidance from the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) guidance that gives dairy farmers clarity on how to meet the Government’s synthetic nitrogen (N) fertiliser cap regulations, but says it will still seek more changes.

The regulations requiring pastoral farmers to meet the new 190kg N/ha/year cap on synthetic N fertiliser came into effect in July.

The N cap applies only to the pastoral sector, not horticulture and market gardening, which also use N fertiliser.

Under the rules, both beef and dairy farmers are required to record N use, but only dairy farmers have to report on their N use to councils.

The new guidance partly addresses the measurement issue, as farmers can now record fertiliser use using a GPS system. Alternatively, farmers can record their average/ha N fertiliser use by paddock, groups of paddocks or part of a paddock, if the fertiliser is evenly applied.

“We want to get this right once and for all for farmers as it has been causing considerable stress,” DairyNZ strategy and investment leader Dr David Burger said.

“Dairy farmers are working to reduce nitrogen use, but there was no pragmatic way for them to meet the measuring and reporting requirements.

“There’s inequity there, so DairyNZ will keep working with the Government to get greater fairness for dairy farmers across the board, while our sector continues our environmental work throughout the country.”

Burger says DairyNZ worked hard with the ministry, the primary sector and regional councils to get this solution.

“We’ll keep calling on the Government for farmers to be able to measure and report their nitrogen use using an across farm average. This is a more practical solution advocated for by both DairyNZ and various regional councils,” he said.

For now, it’s important farmers record all N fertiliser applications and look at options to reduce N input, if above the 190kg/ha limit.

They need to record their applications during the year so they can report the required information to their regional council in July 2022.

In some circumstances, farmers must apply for a regional council consent by the end of 2021, if they can’t meet the N cap. Farmers with a consent will still have to reduce fertiliser use.

“There must be a flexible approach in how farmers can report to regional councils on their nitrogen fertiliser use next year. They should be able to use an existing programme, such as a fertiliser company programme, or a template from their regional council,” he said.

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