Govt sowing seeds for another ag-sag homepaddock gas after eating

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CORIN This is a massive signal. This is like your oil and gas. This is you saying to the farming sector, ‘You cannot continue with some of your practices in dairying, and we will force you to have less cows.’ What work have you done to look at what the economic impact of that would be? Because we know if there’s a drought, for example, and milk production goes down a couple of percent, it takes off a percent off GDP.

DAVID We haven’t done an analysis of what the economic effects would be. But it’s very, very difficult to model, because second-best from the farmer perspective may still be very close to the same outcome profit-wise. Can I go back to what I was saying that I think one of the answers to this in south Canterbury, for example, lies in land use change towards more cropping, more horticulture, which are high-value land uses. . .

The point about any land-based activity is that it suits the topography and climate, which interact with the parent material to create the soil. Farmers and growers understand the nature of the interaction, and then manage the deficiencies – fertilisers, irrigation, shelters, for instance.

Massey University’s professor Tony Parsons has examined the land-use challenge with funding from the New Zealand Agricultural Research Centre (NZAGRC). He has calculated that at a given N input, dairy produces two to three times as much food, similar or less methane and less than half the amount of nitrogen loss.

In recent years, the debates about water rights and water pollution in New Zealand have become increasingly torrid. Most New Zealanders have fixed views on the topic and are confident their views are correct. Human nature then leads to so-called facts being organised to buttress those fixed views.

There is a term for this phenomenon called ‘noble cause corruption’. The problem is that ‘we’ have the ‘noble cause’ and ‘they’ have the ‘corruption’. And so, within this framework, the water debate has been characterised by huge superficiality, rhetoric and shouting. The opportunities for shared learning and accommodation have been minimal. . .

Radical environmentalists and anti-farming groups have done a very good job with the s uperficiality, rhetoric and shouting . What we need now is science and the recognition that problems decades in the making will take time to solve and that improving water quality isn’t as simple as reducing cow numbers.

Currently, there is great confusion between issues of water quantity and water quality. Dirty dairying has become the catch phrase. At a public level, distinguishing between nitrogen leaching, phosphorus runoff, bacterial loadings and sediment does not occur. There is also very poor understanding as to the constraints to cash crop and horticulture production in the absence of irrigation.

It is remarkable how huge swathes of the big-city populations have lost sight of the dependence New Zealand has on its natural resource-based industries. They do not appreciate that destruction of agriculture is incompatible with poverty elimination. . . .

Dairying has revived communities that were dying, creating jobs on farms and in businesses which service and supply them. Schools which were in danger of closing have had their rolls boosted, sports clubs which were in decline have been revived.

First, while there was a time when many kids in the cities were sent to “Uncle Jim and Aunty Shirley’s farm” for the holidays, such things are almost non-existent now – just another example of the gulf that has opened between town and country voters in NZ. The former simply don’t know and don’t care on an emotional basis, and no amount of discussion about GDP or water quality standards improving will beat “Dirty Dairying” in our increasingly emotion-driven politics.

Second, Labour is dead in the provinces aside from where one or two largish towns can overcome the votes of the surrounding countryside. The Greens are even more dead. So from a Green-Labour POV there’s no electoral loss, which is the only thing that really counts here. The feeling is mutual so Green-Labour can go “full hate” on both the traditional class warfare aspects (farmers as rich pricks), and the more recent environmental hysteria, since we lack dark, satanic mills belching smoke. Have to find a demon somewhere.

Third, the constant grind of capitalism trends towards larger economic units over time and the steady decline of the “family” farm. What was a large dairy unit forty years ago is now medium to small. And given the age-old story of Big Business loving Big Government, there’s no reason why 2000-cow units won’t be perfectly happy to agree to ever more regulations; they can wear the Capex, the small units can’t, and when the latter sell out it will be to the big units. What that does to small rural schools, clubs and the like is reduce them, but that’s not a problem for large dairy farms or Green-Labour (fewer “difficult” voters to deal with).

Fourth, the National Party will simply shrug its shoulders and accept the dwindling tribal votes of farmers, while being public squishes on any number of environmental matters to appeal to the town vote. Same with fearsome corporates like Fonterra, who won’t fight back but will simply adopt a fetal position at the feet of the Greens. As just one example, I’m looking at wasting $20-30,000 on a new artesian bore water system for the houses on my farm next year because the District Health Board will no longer accept our solution of point-of-use filtration – not because it does not work, but because they can’t guarantee (100%) that we’ll keep them up to scratch and therefore can’t 100% be sure that we’re safe (we rural morons like getting sick apparently). The relevant legislation was passed in 2008 (probably another Helen special) and was never modified by National in nine years of power to protect small, rural schemes from DHB bureaucrats. My local National MP, Kruiger, had a majority of 15,000 in 2017.

I’ve been a “two-tick Blue” voter since 2002 (voted for Helen in 1999!!!!!!!I) – but purely as a defensive measure against the known insanity and fanaticism of the Greens. I’d hoped to buy another three years to 2020, but even so I hope to hold on until 2026, simply so I can say to my parent’s memories that I went to retirement as they did.