OPINION: The biggest issue currently facing our industry is environmental policy, writes Beef+Lamb NZ chief executive Sam McIvor.
Chief executive Sam McIvor says as well as advocating for change, the organisation will focus on helping farmers to understand how the rules apply on their farms. BLNZ is also working on providing resources to help farmers do this.
“This will continue to be a priority for our organisation over the coming months,” he says.
McIvor claims that, in respect of winter grazing, there is some good news in the short term as changes are made to the new laws. He says while the proposed winter grazing rules technically come into effect on 31 May 2021, the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) has advised all regional councils that farmers do not have to apply for a consent until 31 October 2021 – as long as farmers do not make any changes to how they have been winter grazing in the past.
This is due to an “existing rights” rule protected under the RMA. But McIvor says if farmers are changing something with respect to their winter grazing in 2021, then they will need to get in contact with their regional council.
“The Government has acknowledged there are problems with the low slope map for stock exclusion and acknowledged this needs to be fixed,” he adds. “At this stage, we understand MfE is intending to ‘improve the map’ and make it more accurate.”
However, McIvor concedes that this will be complicated and take a long time, as there are significant issues right across the entire country.
BLNZ is also pushing for swift progress on developing a certified farm plan that is outcomes based and based on industry approaches.
McIvor says they are encouraging the Government to make progress as quickly as possible on defining what a certified farm plan is, and how these will be rolled out, so that farmers won’t have to seek a consent.
“We are strongly advocating for an industry-led approach to farm plans that are practical and outcomes based,” he adds. “BLNZ will shortly be rolling out a new farm plan process, which we believe would meet the Government’s requirements for a certified farm plan.”
McIvor says BLNZ will be holding events around the country with farmers to explain the new rules, what it is doing to improve the rules, and the tools BLNZ is developing to assist farmers in meeting these.