Wednesday, 29 August 2018 07:55

Farmers ahead of regulators

Written by  Pam Tipa
Katie Milne says many groups have come together to reach targets at Lake Brunner, near her farm. Katie Milne says many groups have come together to reach targets at Lake Brunner, near her farm.

Once farmers have understood the environmental issues, they leaping ahead of regulators and do it anyway, says Federated Farmers president and dairy farmer Katie Milne.

“Over-arching legislation can be difficult. It tends to be one-size-fits-all. And it doesn’t necessarily deliver what people need in their own communities,” she says.

Milne was answering a question on how farmers would respond to more freshwater environmental regulations.

Good management practice is being developed and “it would be really nice to see how far we can go with that,” she told an Environmental Defence Society conference. She cited her own experience of many groups coming together to reach targets at Lake Brunner where she lives.

“We got on board and dealt with it and we reached the targets really quickly. All over the country there are catchment groups with farmers, school kids and others involved.”

A huge mindshift has occurred with farmers always pushing back to where they know they have issues. 

“Give a farmer a problem and they will try to solve it. We have farmers developing in-time monitoring devices that Landcorp and others will use.

“We all want a better result now we are aware. It has been 150 year journey to get agriculture here to the point where we are at in New Zealand. Twenty years ago no one knew what diffuse nutrients were and the big impact they were having. There might have been indicators that things were going wrong. This information has come along and is helping inform us on where we need to go.

“Farmers have genuinely picked up those issues. They are doing their best to solve them.”

But she says there are always outliers and perhaps they need regulation to bring them into line.

“We lack knowledge and have gaps all over the place. One thing farmers always scream out for is clarity; if they understand where they are going that is a great start. 

“There are best practices and best ways now to get to the crux of it. The hot points – where are the biggest impacts? – let’s go there and deal with those. At the same time everyone can be working on it.”


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