Friday, 23 June 2017 07:55

Farmers join forces to improve water

Written by  Rob Mitchell
Part of the achievements of the Sustainable Water Accord include riparian guides for every region. Part of the achievements of the Sustainable Water Accord include riparian guides for every region.

Joint work by industry and the Government has been vital to agriculture making progress on environmental issues.

Industry body DairyNZ highlighted this progress recently in its three-year update of the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord report, which showed what farmers have done to protect the environment.

Achievements included riparian guides for every region, award-winning planning resources for the industry, nutrient budgets processed for 9500 farmers (83% of the industry) and certification for 130 nutrient management advisers to help farmers adopt best practices in adding nutrients sustainably.

Because of these and other actions, significant non-compliance for dairy effluent was down to just 5.2% nationwide, the lowest on record.

Much of this work was supported by the Transforming the Dairy Value Chain Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme, a seven-year, $170 million scheme led by DairyNZ and Fonterra, and partnered by the Ministry for Primary Industries. It is aimed at creating new dairy products, increasing farm productivity, reducing environmental impacts and improving agricultural education.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says many of the achievements would not have been possible without the PGP, “working collaboratively to support the science and training to build capability in the dairy sector on these issues. The programme has helped us get through this challenge”.

Better effluent and nutrient management was a key issue addressed. PGP initiatives included building an infrastructure -- largely from scratch -- of accreditation, and certification for farmers and the rural professionals who support them. Fertiliser companies and regional councils are involved.

“We have seen changes in business models as companies servicing the farming sector align with the need for improvements in managing farm issues such as off-paddock facilities and effluent non-compliance,” said Mackle.

He said the partnership involved in the programme had helped the industry get to grips with the scale of what needed to be done.

“We set big goals and if we’d worked alone to achieve them it would have cost more, taken longer and probably not seen such effective outcomes.”

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy believes there will be many “long-lasting legacies” from the programme.

“The focus on protecting the environment and managing resources sustainably, for example nutrients and effluent, will have enduring benefits for generations to come,” he said.

“One good example is the Nutrient Management Advisor Certification Programme. There are now 130 graduates of this advising farmers on how to manage nutrients more effectively to increase productivity, while minimising environmental impacts.

“The innovation, and the benefits that come from this, wouldn’t have been possible without the Transforming the Dairy Value Chain programme. It has accelerated thinking and is achieving innovations well beyond what would otherwise have been possible.”

• Rob Mitchell is the communications manager for Transforming the Dairy Value Chain PGP.


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