Thursday, 26 December 2019 08:55

How to assist farmers

Written by  Arthur Tsitsiras, general manager of TerraCare
Arthur Tsitsiras. Arthur Tsitsiras.

OPINION: Collectively we must support farmers to become sustainable.

A recent report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research showed that the dairy industry contributes $17 billion to the NZ economy. 

The report also showed a 70% increase in export earnings per cow since 2001. 

Dairy has the highest average salary amongst agricultural industries and is a top ten employer in half of New Zealand territorial authorities. The dairy sector’s economic activity also supports the regional economy, delivering 10% of GDP in Waikato, Southland, West Coast and Taranaki. It is the second largest contributor to economic activity in Northland and Manawatu, and the third largest in Canterbury and Bay of Plenty.   

The dairy industry in New Zealand is not immune to challenges, however. A recent outbreak of Mycoplasma bovis, a disease which can cause mastitis and abortions in cows, led to 80 farms being tested positive for the disease. 

Dairy farming is also impacted by the same set of variables that affect the agriculture industry as a whole: droughts, floods, storms, and fluctuating demands in its product. 

The rise in plant-based milks is probably the newest threat and one that looks set to continue as the vegan movement rises across the globe. Forbes and The Economist have called 2019 the year of the vegan and the global vegan food market size is predicted to be worth US$ 24.3 billion by 2026. 

In addition, dairy farmers are now expected to be conscious about their environmental impact. PM Jacinda Ardern recently announced that Kiwi farmers have a five year window to reduce their carbon emissions before the Government introduces financial penalties, potentially adding further stress to already overworked farmers. Ardern’s Zero Carbon Bill was passed in early November, with the aim of New Zealand being carbon neutral by 2050. 

Waterway pollution, as a result of phosphorus and synthetic nitrogen fertilisers, is also hot on the agenda. The Government recently announced it would spend $12 million to help support farmers and communities clean up New Zealand’s waterways. 

An Environment Ministry report in 2014 revealed that roughly 60% of New Zealand’s waterways are unfit for swimming and experts say water quality has deteriorated further since. Moreover, in a recent Colmar Brunton survey, 82% of respondents said they were “extremely or very” concerned about the pollution of rivers and lakes, more than any other issue including living costs, child poverty and climate change. 

Clearly, farmers are behind the movement to make New Zealand more sustainable. A recent survey by Nielsen Research, which was commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries through the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change Research programme, revealed that 92% of farmers are focused on making their farm more environmentally sustainable, up from 78% in the last survey of 2009. 

Dairy farming, despite it being one of the biggest contributors to the New Zealand economy, isn’t without its challenges. It has now been presented a fresh hurdle in the form of the Government’s new environmental regulations. 

Collectively we must support farmers to become sustainable. Farmers are onboard and actively want to be more sustainable, some 92% of them in fact. So it won’t be resistance or a want of trying that leads farmers to fall short of the Government’s climate emissions reform expectations. It’ll be that they haven’t been sufficiently supported.   

• Arthur Tsitsiras is general manager of TerraCare.

More like this

Blooming biodiversity at Craggy Range

A New Zealand wine company is planting more than 150,000 native trees and plants in and around its Martinborough vineyards, with 100,000 plants to go in this winter alone.

Sustainability guardians

New Zealand Winegrowers has ramped up its sustainability goals, with a raft of new and improved measures to safeguard our “planet, people and profit”, says General Manager Sustainability Dr Edwin Massey.

Featured

$700m for freshwater clean up

The Government has announced a $700 million fund to support the primary sector and other groups in meeting new clean water standards.

Synlait's milk price drop

Canterbury milk processor Synlait has reduced its 2019-20 forecast base milk price by 20c to $7.05/kgMS.

 

Overstayers irk farmers

A new law preventing the eviction of tenants from rental properties is causing a headache for some dairy farmers.

Katie’s parting shot

Outgoing Federated Farmers president Katie Milne has hit out at Wellington-based government officials for their lack of understanding about farming.

Feed shortage looming large

Parts of the Waikato are starting to recover from the drought, but the availability of feed remains a concern, says DairyNZ’s Sharon Morrell.

Southland on the brink

Southland is teetering on the edge of a bad situation, according to DairyNZ’s lead consulting officer in the South Island, Tony Finch.

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

Milking It

Spraying powder in fields

Farmers in eight EU countries sprayed milk powder in fields to protest against the European Commission’s “misguided” way of mitigating…

» Connect with Dairy News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter