The reality is that intensive dairying works because land values have increased hugely only because there are no costs for the environmental impacts, says Mike Joy. Your view?

The reality is that intensive dairying works because land values have increased hugely only because there are no costs for the environmental impacts, says Mike Joy. Your view?

By Mike Joy*

For at least a century farming has been perceived as the backbone of the New Zealand economy, but in the last two decades the reality behind the perception has undergone an immense change.

The unregulated boom in dairy production has seen intensification and industrialisation to the extent that dairy farming can no longer be seen as even remotely sustainable, environmentally or economically.

Everything that we measure around the state of the environment associated with dairy farming is in decline and the deterioration is accelerating.

You could only consider dairy farming the backbone only if you choose, as many do, to ignore the multitude economic and environmental costs.

No longer is dairy farming a natural process where sunlight and rain are combined to grow pasture to be grazed by cows to make milk.

Rather, it is an industrial process much more like a factory where trucks bring in through the farm gate raw materials like palm kernel from Indonesia, phosphorous mined in Morocco and nitrogen derived from fossil gas at Kapuni. A small proportion of this nutrient goes out the farm gate in milk tankers and the rest leaves the farm through the soil and into waterways to pollute lakes, rivers and soils.

Down on the farm, there has been drive to increase land value by adding more cows through many more external inputs like palm kernel, and fertiliser.

It has worked, land values have increased hugely but only because there is no cost on the environmental impacts.

In effect though, the farmers earn less while stressing the land, the animals, and the people more and more.

It is done in the belief that it will be worth it all in the end when the farm is sold.

Of course this form of property speculation depends on a few key issues like milk prices continuing to rise, and that there is no limit on how much intensification the land can absorb.

In the absence of any control on intensity or impacts inevitably this process drives environmental impacts past societal values. Thus, while the economic value of the land has risen because of this artificially driven production gain, the intrinsic value of the land has diminished as the soil has become compacted and contaminated with heavy metals, and the waterways and lakes polluted.

A further downside of intensification is that land values have escalated so much that now on-farm debt on dairy farms exceeds 30 billion dollars. This is a lose-lose situation for New Zealand because environmental impacts go up exponentially with the increased production, but then much of the increased revenue immediately leaves the country as interest on escalating land prices.

Unfortunately, mainly through a lack of any central government leadership, our dairy industry is based on a very low value end product (milk powder) so the industry is constrained to low-cost production for this low value product.

The absence of any polluter-pays legislation has meant that increasing farm income was achieved by increasing intensification rather than by the more sustainable approach of adding value to the product. Who wouldn’t exploit this situation if you can make more money by adding cows and the impacts are not charged for?

Thus, the market in the absence of polluter-pays legislation encouraged increased environmental damage.

So dairy farmers are now trapped on a treadmill, forced to apply more and more external food and fertiliser to keep producing more milk required by banks to pay interest.

In general the response to this dilemma from the industry - mainly Fonterra, Federated Farmers and the fertiliser companies - has been one of smokescreens and denial. One blatant example, among many, was the industry funded New Zealand Institute of Economic Research report on the value of dairy to the New Zealand economy which unashamedly reported profits but omitted all associated costs.

These external costs of the dairy industry are borne by the rest of New Zealand in the form of polluted rivers, lakes and soils and through the subsidising of most of the cost of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. Essentially this subsidising of one sector of the farming industry by the rest of New Zealand distorts the pricing and competitiveness, and increases the environmental impacts of farming.

An enquiry into the true cost of dairy farming in New Zealand is long overdue, any honest analysis would show that the costs far outweigh the gains and that we are destroying our future by continuing with this senseless dairy boom.

The best and only solution for the future of New Zealand environmentally and thus economically is to end subsidies to dairy farming by having a charge on pollution; this will drive the industry to add value to products, or diversify lessening impacts and allowing for more sustainable farming types to reclaim the landscape. 
The inconvenient reality is that our clean-green credentials are in freefall and the farming sector is shooting itself in the foot by fighting against environmental protection.

Ultimately it’s not just tourism but also all primary production that relies on our clean green image, without it we are all in trouble so it is past time to take a good hard look at the real value of intensive dairy.


Dr. Mike Joy is a Senior Lecturer in Ecology and Environmental Science at the Ecology group in the Institute of Natural Resources Massey University Palmerston North.  He researches and teaches freshwater ecology, especially freshwater fish ecology and distribution, ecological modelling bioassessment and environmental science.  He is an outspoken advocate for environmental protection in New Zealand and has received a number of awards including “ecologist of the year” from the NZ ecological Society, and an “Old Blue” award from the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society. You can contact him here »

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Good article Mike, all very true.
When it's the almighty dollar on one side, and the environment on the other, the money usually wins out.
But hopefully this will change over time.

Dr Joy is an extremist who ,as extremists are wont to do is  trumpet with great gusto the horrors of Dairy farming and agriculture in general . The lack of sensible solutions in his articles is of the most concern. Armageddon is here - Cadmium poisoning , dirty dairying , nitrogen , phosphate , water degradation . The end is nigh.
I watched Rural Delivery last Saturday morning and there were  2 excellent stories on wintering cows in Southland and how the farmers were chaging their systems to mitigate environmental impacts and were monitoring various outcomes. Dairy NZ and Farmers are doing some good stuff out there but seldom does it get the press it deserves . There is a sea-change happening in regards to the environment out there - there is Riparian planting , nitrogen inhibitors etc.  Wouldnt it be good to see Joy working alongside farmers to gain mutual respect and understanding instead of screaming from the rooftops .  Every living thing makes an impact - not just Cows

 I think it is cowshit and that is the problem; and yes as Jezza points out there are farmers out there working on some solutions, but there are those that don't and quite a lot of them, but you are right it is not fair to paint everyone with the same brush.

"it is not fair to paint everyone with the same brush."
The issue is the industrialisation of farming, driven by land speculation, which is unsustainable environmentally and economically.
Looks like a lot of NZers want to stick their heads in the sand on this one, ditto the Housing Bubble.

the banks decide the value of the land not farmers it's people who eat food and what impact does towns and city's have the on the environment if you want a lot better environment get rid of people

It hurts to even think it let alone say it, but I basically agree with the sod. Lots more inputs for less profit and more environmental problems, simple but true. Where I disagree is with the idea that farmers have changed little to mitigate things as many have done much, the landscape is vastly different (better) than when I was a kid.

Agree with most of the above. Excellent article highlighting the problem. However not so good on the right solution i.e. farmers are coming up with better solutions on this, it's a matter of ensuring ALL farmers do it

Mist - kindly disassociate money from physical outcomes.
If they (outcomes) can't be afforded, then activities shouldn't be undertaken. Period.

It also pains me to agree with a lot of Mikes points. The dairy industry is out of control. Two large corporates in this district ,both took on huge debt (many millions)  in the last 12 months for differing reasons, one was for more infrastructure, the other for more land.
Well, today here we stand and they cant afford to do AB. When I say cant afford to, its complex, but money would solve the problem.
As we all know there are two primary jobs on a dairy farm you have to get right. Get the milk out of the cows, and get them pregnant again.
So what is going on? This seems to me to be an extraordinary failure of the system we now have controlling dairy farming in NZ. The shiny bums are desperate to spend money, get bigger get better, and therefore I imagine prop up their reason d'etre. The guys at the coalface, under paid, overworked, and failing.
The corporate model, ask anyone who regularly goes into these farms is a massive failure. It is built on enormous debt, that is a millstone to each and every property. As Mike says the whole shebang revolves around cheap oil. And thats over. But get a bloke to admit that............ nup. So these properties are chronically understaffed, not milked properly, not mated properly, 30% empty, and the bank wonders what happened to the budget.
We have to change our model of doing things. The market should decide, but the market is skewed by greedy bankers. And at this rate the greedy bankers will end up owning all the farms.   

"And at this rate the greedy bankers will end up owning all the farms."   Interest is simply a tool for the redistribution of wealth. (M.V)+i=P.Q models it. So what is say is exactly the intent of bankers, as they don't want to keep their capital in the currency they gradually make worthless by the very mechanism they use to extract that wealth. No they want hard assets if they can.

 How would they do that, buy their own covered bonds? now thats a novel idea.

I do see what you mean.
Banks as simply part of the mechanism, so my saying "banks" is too simplistic. Who are the beneficiaries and how are they translating that into real wealth.

Mist: Bang on.
Your thinking to deconstruct things into the various views the different palyers have is good.
You are right:
1. Bankers, dairy farms, could be houses, could be tulips, could be old sox, anything where there is a motivated sales channel and a pool of punters willing to sign on the dotted line. Yay for credit growth, the merry cycle of interest and the groups of associated spivs and otherwise hangers-on feeding off the wash....
2.Real estate agents happy to talk up properties etc, as commission based on the big number (and untruths have no consequences). Its a race to bottom re morals/ethics etc. Remember that real estate firm that had international roadshow/sales tours promoting dairy farms across the globe (that what they do with apartment developments ex the Gold Coast)..
2.a. Low level bankers doing the handiwork on the ground, paid in bonus of credit growth, (dolling out money - its not like selling - more like rationising why bad credits, bad funding structures and bad properties should be funded.... Oftetn these folk are drawn from the same group as 3. in order to make the activity appear  natural....
3.Punters (motivated borrowers) people with dna wired up that buying land the only way to get ahead (based on the share milking method). I remember on one field trip being told "I'd borrow against the wife if anyone would take her" (but that was in the N.I.).
4. Valuers happy to wave values thru. (given the activities of 2 and 3 above). And guess what a mortgage valuation is written to the lender (see 1 above) and not to be used for any other purpose etc, etc, (so those in group 1 above get to specify/determine the calculation/methodology used to "judge" value). - think of valuers as credit rating agencies......
5. Once in a life time event of Fonterra formation. we all remember the "White Gold" message up until just a year or so ago.... Look at the way the royal families make alliances (i.e. bankers on fonterra board, and fonterra insiders on Bank boards)..
6. Govt. policy - must have export income.... (would you belive to have the income to pay the interest to those associated to 1 above) lol. Waving it all thru...
Gee it worked so well that people from 5 started to pop in group 3, thinking its all right by people in 2.a and 1. And people from 2 and 4 joined in 3. not to mention the people that have tried to take it all "global"..... lol
As Peter Cook said: this is no way to run a ballroom....

Yes it is just a system, and as soon at that system has outlived its usefullness the participants will be cut loose. I would go so far as to say even those in government, although I am not sure if it will get that severe in NZ. All the people that have theoretical capital tied up in real estate are just middle men and liable to be slammed as much as anyone else. 
  My feeling all the way along is that banks won't worry about taking possession of land in mortgagee sales, I mean the "price" was set with money they created for free. It is not the price that has been important, it is the system of redistribution. But I can't be certain, no one can until we know what the next system will be.
  The game changer is peak oil because that is what has underwritten the production that pays the interest. My guess is that as machines are less viable the will go back to people. But the population is about to start shrinking also, as the slowing rate of growth approaching the zero point.

Well if they did how long would the bankers stay in business?
By this I mean they have to get an adequate return on the money they paid for the farm.
Pointless saying its book worth is 20million, if after having to go organic the return is <1%, the ppl they borrowed off wont wear it at all....and as if bankers can run farms.
So actually I suspect the owners of last resort will be the councils as the farms/banks fold....then they will be sold back to a want to be farmer at a sensible price given the return....

Have you ever read Robert Kyosaki's explanation of why banking developed? It is in one of his books where he discusses the origins of the term real estate (Royals Estate). Basically land ownership was what made the aristocracy, but this came with risks that gradually increased with population density. Banking evovled to mitigate those risks but still keeping the benefits. Loaning money on the land was the trick to pull that off.
So this converstation on the banks is really talking about the middle men still, to see who the modern royalty are I think the focus needs to go higher. Pre banking control of the land meant control of the production from the land, banking achieves the same thing except it just exchanges interest for a tax on physical goods. The wealth redistribution is the same in the end, we just have a few more toys to expend it on these days.

Spoken like a real man mist. Give me a cow and I'll make her milk.......unfortunately the next most important thing is getting her to milk again next year. As an ab tech the lacksadaisical way dairy farmers approach mating always amuses me.  

Well they tried the winter milking thing around here Mist, apparently it doesnt work so well. Fact is NZ dairy farming relies mostly on the spring calving regime. And you go and throw 40 bulls in with 1000 cows, and it aint pretty. What it is, is the slippery slope. You could get me started on all the issues that go with getting cows back in calf on the big farms. Some get it right, too many get it very wrong. So with 30 % of your herd empty, and this is not uncommon in NZ now, kinda puts a huge dent in the budget.

Haha, you guys think you have problems.  I'm currently helping run (no proper job description) a 2000 cow all year round calving farm in Auz.  ie 2500 cows and at least 2000 in milk every day of the year.  We are running a fully synchronized AB programme with timed mating.  Now that is a headache.  Dry off every week of the year, calve everyday... 

Drivers were it theoretically works as pivots for summer grass and annual ryegrass on dryland for winter feed plus TMR, plus grain.  Its great for cashflow and it gets you away from having to get cows back in calf quickly.  You can peak you cows for longer  if the don't get them in calf till 100 DIM.  BUT from a staffing and cow point of view its a nightmare.  Big power cow holstein fresians need to be checked on the  leedfeed every 2 hours 24 hours a day 365 days a year...  staffing levels per 100 cows you wouldn't want to know and a won't say because its horrendous.  Lets just say its >1.  Also 38 hour australian working week which means overtime payments for staff...  bloody interesting though.  I wouldn't suggest it.

Staffing levels around these parts can be 1 per 400 can you imagine the production that goes west because of that.  I cant get over the madness that bid up the price of land so much that now staffing is so low. One is inverse of the other.
There are the kings and queens, that give the orders, the great 1 percenters, then there are the slaves, the guys that get outa bed at 3am and risk their neck puttering around hillsides to bring in cows in the dark in wind and rain. The 1 percenters now own many of our farms.
When did we think the likes of Armer and Maori incorporations, and Landcorp and the Chinese and the Germans taking control of our land and shitting in our streams was a good idea? I dont think this argument of Mike Joys is about ma and pa farmers, this is about corporates doing what they want for little benefit to the average Joe in NZ.

Thanks Belle - it needs to be said and now acted upon.
Where are the so called government human protection agencies (ACC,OSH etc) in this appalling situation?
Ohh sorry. I forgot ACC is busy buying unsecured bank debt to capitalise unsustainable bank mortgage pillaging to further facilitate transfer of family farm title deeds to absentee corporate landlords.
How long before Nestle has Fonterra and farmers operate out of subsidiszed but substandard accommodation similar in concept to that which Lever Brothers used to offer employees?- Port Sunlight.  

Sure let them own farms....if there is not the return on their excessive investment how long will they last?
Say a farm is handed over to a banker with a book value of 20million but its making 1% because cheap oil era is over.....really its worth 2million. The banker is stuffed he still has to pay back that 20million and interest at 3+%, that 18million is lost.....  I just pray the Govn doesnt have to bail the bankers out....

Belle, yes. There are some very fine folk who are dairy and other farmers. There are very few fine folk who are fine dairy farm company directors and chief operating officers.
Good people as farmers running farms, poor people as executives running farmers...
The lark is that everyone though things linear - more cows, more $, more land, more cows, more $.....
We know its not like that. the complex nature of things, wheels within wheels, seasonal change and commodity price cycle are the things that make it interesting... Although sometimes we wish for just making wire coat hangers etc....
A problem we see is that the banks have jammed so much $ up in large corp farms, are refusing ta take the capital provision (we heard of one, where the loan outstanding is above the the banks production valuation - that was at $6.75 pay out). But they saying - "we will not take a loss"...
As it is people are offering farms at a return of 4% (before gearing up with a loan).
With bigger properties, we don't have the cash flow to start negative for the first couple of years.... And these bigger places take a couple of years to "un-corporatise"... Plus there is always some undisclosed bomb left for the new folk to defuse.
So Bell what is going to happen next..

"Where I disagree is with the idea that farmers have changed little to mitigate things as many have done much, the landscape is vastly different (better) than when I was a kid."
Not sure about that, red....... the rivers where I grew up in Taranaki have lower visibility and higher algae growth in the side creeks now.... we used to catch brown trout in the whaiwhakaiho tributaries..... now the fish are all gone.
Fed Farmers & Fonterra has it's head in the sand when it comes to understanding the ANGER non-farming New Zealanders have about dirty dairying.
Horizon DC tries to raise the bar for environmental compliance (including both sewerage AND dairy) and what happens?
Hypocritic chain-dragging by supposed industry leader Bruce Wills!

My opinion is based on two things only. The steam I grew up beside started as a silt/sand bottom stream when I was a nipper, but by the time I was a teenager I was shocked to realize it was rock bottomed, old lava beds to be exact and on top of that it no longer floods, as evidenced by the silly people building houses on the flood plain :). Meanwhile the three dairy farms beside it stopped putting effluent  directly in in the 70s.
The other was two pictures taken from above the mount entrance to tauranga harbour looking south. One taken about 1970 the other  20 years later. The difference in vegetation was enormous with the landscape in the 70s being pretty bare, nude even.
But I'm not defending the status quo and I certainly don't think even more intensification is in any way sustainable. Meanwhile fed farmers have always been years behind and not likely to catch up.

so thats a really well thought out epistle - a Joy to read ,. Lets ban those naughty dairy farmers who dare to use our natural resouces - shut down that bothersome Fonterra,and surrender the waterways to the Tangata Whenua. Whats another 100,000 unemployed and another 50,000 fed up Kiwis  leaving for Oz - brilliant !

The thing about bigotry is that it proponents are ususally not that bright.

When the settlers first arrived , the kauri ( Agathis australis ) was the bigotry in New Zealand .

The comments by Dr. Joy about the real value of intensive dairying are largely correct and there has already been some analysis of this reported at NZARES conference in 2010
There is an overallocation of resources into the industry which the banks can see as a way to make money and that the government seems to be blindly encouraging.
This is unfortunately reaching new levels of misallocation with the irrigation proposals currently being triumphed. The Hurunui scheme and the economics around that have already been aired in this forum but the Ruataniwha scheme in Central Hawkes Bay seems even more worrying in terms of economics, environment and risk.
It is also quite clear that any intensification of marginal soils using water to promote more dairy leads to decreasing profits and increasing amounts of nutrient leaching, much of which cannot be "mitigated".
Producing more commodity products at marginally negative prices will not be the salvation for the nation but more production is still seen as the way forward, no matter what the cost.

So what do we do, go back to sheep?   
Farming is knacked, costs are too high and debt is out of control. I lease my farm but the farmer leasing wants out as he hasn't made any money this year, good, low indebted, hard working farmer making zilch, something will have to give soon.
 I posted this comment from a Telegraph favorite of mine on 90@90 belongs here

Yesterday 09:23 PM


No, Bill it is not debt that we are hooked on but rather socialist redistributionist consumption economics that give rise to debt and no corresponding human or physical assets by which economic growth can repay the debt.
Socialist consumption of redistributed wealth without replacement pure and simple - that needs to change first and soon.
But I do not see any high profile British politicians advocating radical reductions to the size of state spending combined with a radical reduction in taxes for the productive.
Even Mr. Warner and Mr. Evans-Pritchard refuse to discuss such a policy mix. And if there is no support for a small state taking little and promising little at the Telegraph you can be sure that there is no support elsewhere.
Bill, you are right - you could see your sovereign investment fund collapse in value due to a lack of politicians that you could back and trust to do the right thing in rolling back the socialist welfare state that has been the UK since WW2.


Traditional farmers have been 'price-takers', rather than 'price makers' for years. Since WW2, and maybe longer. That's why the larger units - although economies of scale are only a stop-gap. The pressure comes on again....
And Mike Joy is correct - even without factoring in Natural Capital, BigAg is in trouble.
The alternative AJ?  Subdivision in the direction of small-farming, better husbanding, more folk per acre. Autonomous cluster/village housing, a couple of well-tended acres apiece. After all, in comparison with Hughey sprawling all over the Plains, cluster allotments make better sense.

I thought you said spewing all over the plains for a second, which actually fits as well.

Big Ag is in trouble.
Of course, you have to be able to grasp things, cranially speaking, to realise this.
Some time ago, I sent you off in a car, representing the finite planet. Allowed you a full tank, and unlimited dosh. You couldn't conceptualise that; thought you could just get out (find another planet, in other words) and buy more gas.
With that kind of blindness, of course you don't thing Big (totally fossil fuelled) Ag is in trouble.

“Subdivision in the direction of small-farming, better husbanding, more folk per acre. Autonomous cluster/village housing, a couple of well-tended acres apiece.”
“In 1999, 35 million small family plots produced 90% of Russia’s potatoes, 77% of vegetables, 87% of fruits, 59% of meat, 49% of milk — way to go, people!
And since 1999, it seems things have only gotten better when it comes to small-scale agriculture in Russia.
In 2003 the Russian President signed into law a further “Private Garden Plot Act” enabling Russian citizens to receive free of charge from the state, plots of land in private inheritable ownership. Sizes of the plots differ by region but are between one and three hectares each [1 hectare = 2.2 acres]. Produce grown on these plots is not subject to taxation. A further subsequent law to facilitate the acquisition of land for gardening was passed in June 2006. (according to a footnote in “Who We Are” by Vladimir Megre, pg. 42)

It never ceases to amaze me the number of misinformed self proclaimed 'academics' out there. Tell me how we maintain a strong robust economy without growth in our primary sectors given we are an export led nation? Fonterra need to retain their dominant export position by remaining a significant player globally with regard to volume. Who's taxes do you think subsidise the very water quality 'experts' trying to stop dairy industry growth. 
Water is our best natural resource that needs quality control but this must be weighed however with the needs of the country and the population as a whole. 
If you dont agree then give me an alternative that will provide a return even close to dairy - bare in mind we are still running deficits as a country!

I bet you would change your tune if you had a stream running through your property that had a swimming hole, but it was unsafe to swim in because of the half a dozen dairy farms upstream polluting it. As long as it isn't in your back yard eh?

Is the low return because of the environmental issues? Or because of ponzi debt issues?
The problem with JCB's comments are that he is saying it is okay to sacrifice water quality because a few farmers need to make money (to pay interest on their loans) under the guise that this is good for the country. Sorry I don't subcribe to that, if you ruin the ecosystems then eventually the farmers won't have a viable business.
I know what you mean though. However holding people to account is never so simple. The log burner action group has photographs displayed on their site, along with reports to ECAN over rubbish fires burning just outside the urban area. ECAN won't act on this because they have a vested interest in banning wood burners, so the public are being disadvantaged by fraudulent emissions data.
Interesting on the coal business.

Mist I thought you response  was a well considered one ,not without a little bias I'd add, but all in all really good....untill you got to this......
Which brings us back to the NZ public.  They want everything, they want it right now, and they don't want to pay for it.
that's not right at all..maybe some children do,..firstly just about every bloody sumphole idea that goes tits up is foisted back on the N.Z. taxpayer.....from Councils to Govt bailouts everybody wants  the taxpayer to suck it up.
Now correct me if I'm wrong but is not the largest part of milk collected for Export..? Is not the drive to expand the Dairy industry in N.Z.largely Export driven....?
Well then I'd agree let those consumers  as part of the privelidge to enjoy Clean Green Milk products....a levy , to ensure it stays that way.
Allright you want us all to share in the cost of clean up....then let's get some proportion in here as to who' is the consumer.....shall we..?

You read my thoughts exactly. However give Mist some credit, I think he rushed off that response before he headed out to the milking shed. The caffeine probably hadn't kicked in yet either.

Duly noted mist appreciate your response.

I live in one of the highest intensity dairy regions in NZ and swim, waterski, and fish from the surrounding lakes. I also work within the industry (not a dairy farmer) and have spent a considerable amount of time looking at the facts impartially - both environmental and economic. Scarfie - i still dont have your alternative that will replace what the dairy industry gives to you, your family, and every other NZer.

You can produce up to 20x more vegetable protein from the same amount of land as dairy does, and without any pollution at all. I doubt the dairy industry supply me with anything, in fact if you follow the debt issues discussed in these forums it is probably a net liability to the country. I am a large consumer of milk, but I source mine unprocessed and direct from an organic farm where they have a very low impact on the environment.

Are you serious? You want us all to eat vegtable protein and drink organic mlk - what do you think will happen to the price of your organic milk if the rest of the world start drinking it? The fact supply would not meet demand, our GDP would be smashed, ongoing deficits would leave the country unable to attract appropriate levels of funding - we may as well call ourselves Greece and get on with it. As far as being a net liability - good luck with your year one finance exam in November :-)

See you assume that I am young, you just make an ass of yourself when you do that. Quite frankly you arguments are lightweight, that showed up the moment you mentioned growth in your first post. I have already posted somewhere else today that the rate of growth in the world population declining, has been for 50 years. But for some reason you think it will defy physics and go on forever. It can't and won't, the inflection point in 61 means we have moved into the peaking phase. What you are promoting is not only polluting, but an inefficient food production method in the face of scarcity. Perhaps we can survive selling luxury products, but I don't think so.

Get your nose out the textbook - the real world awaits you. I dont assume you are young, just misinformed with limited real world experience - calling me lightweight dosent change that scarfie. The fact you spend all day posting your opinon online confirms this. I know we cant feed the world, but i also know the world wont stop because you and the rest of the green party want to save some snails. What we do need is optimisim and innovation, not stones in glass houses.

Haha good one, now you think I haven't lived a little. Full of assumptions again, including that I would support the green party. Voting is for deluded fools and I will make the assumption that you vote.
The funny thing about people that harp on about innovation, which happens here a lot, is that they usually don't have bloody clue how that happens. Convergent thinkers who presume to guess the outcomes of divergent thinkers. See I am in innovator JCA, and I spend my life trying to get around wankers that have too much of a vested interest to allow innovation to prosper. ECAN air quality team being a great example I have already mentioned, I would love to see the salary bill the taxpayer wears for that lot.
We know Mist42 has skin in the game, what is your interest?

You dont even vote! I wish you had told me that last night as I dont spend time discussing the issues this Country faces with people who dont respect the democratic process - were you born here? You sound like an angry person which typically clouds someones ability to make reasoned statements. Enjoy your tofu sausages on the solar powered bbq this summer!

You dont even vote! I wish you had told me that last night as I dont spend time discussing the issues this Country faces with people who dont respect the democratic process - were you born here? You sound like an angry person which typically clouds someones ability to make reasoned statements. Enjoy your tofu sausages on the solar powered bbq this summer!

Well I pegged you for a lightweight and I am glad you are keeping the theme going. Democracy is an illusion to keep the sheep happy, are you really so naive that you think a vote every three years gives you some say in the way we are governed? God I hope you can pick your game up as you highlight the real problem this country faces. 

Get your nose out the textbook - the real world awaits you. I dont assume you are young, just misinformed with limited real world experience - calling me lightweight dosent change that scarfie. The fact you spend all day posting your opinon online confirms this. I know we cant feed the world, but i also know the world wont stop because you and the rest of the green party want to save some snails. What we do need is optimisim and innovation, not stones in glass houses.

JCA you aren't a farmer but work within the industry, and yet are able to make impartial judgement?? After the TAF debacle, I'm suspicious of persons who have an interest or opinion on Fonterra making claims about "getting the facts straight". IMO they are generally misguided politicians and industry leaders, financial speculators or farming speculators.
When you make the cliched statement of Fonterra needing to maintain it's dominant export position in terms of volume, what do you mean and why? Are you implying that in this day and age of agflation, food and energy scarcity that NZ pasture sourced milk (powder) will not be in demand. What other countries are going to produce milk as efficiently (notwithstanding Dr Joys relevent commentry on current status of increasingly significant sectors of the industry) given energy and resource (fert, oil) constraints?

It must be a full moon! Go and read some statistics on food production and demand globally.

It must be a full moon! Go and read some statistics on food production and demand globally.

And no doubt interpret those stats how you in your superior knowledge sees fit eh JCA. Whaddya know.....? it 's a full moon.....classic.

Haha fair call - i think we all agree that we need regulated control of water quality and use, we just disagree at what level. This debate is happening several times a week across the country, i just hope we have a balanced outcome.

Mist42nz - no point attacking me I'm on your side. I do however recognise that there will have to be a balance for all interested parties because this is not going away in a hurry.

Mist42nz - no point attacking me I'm on your side. I do however recognise that there will have to be a balance for all interested parties because this is not going away in a hurry.

Haha fair call - i think we all agree that we need regulated control of water quality and use, we just disagree at what level. This debate is happening several times a week across the country, i just hope we have a balanced outcome.

JCA...just hit the save button once...and wait ..! the double posting stuff gets a little repetetive.
Scarfie...I told you before , a non vote a vote for the sitting Administration...I do agree with JCA  in that , you have a responsibility to fulfill there, even if through gritted teeth.
and honestly, I'd pass on the tofu n vege'll give you cancer, Joe Jackson told me that.

A non vote is a statement of no confidence, in my case not just in the current political parties and personalities but in the system as well. By voting for them you are perpetuating a system that has led us to the current point, close to a breaking point that is. This isn't a new fad Count, I have been consistent in this for 20 years now.
  Perhaps not the best example of an alternative would be Libya. Heck evidence I have seen is that the standard of living was better in Libya that it is here but a band of democratic nations put paid to that.
BTW animals don't eat soy, humans shouldn't either as it is poisonous. Same applies to nighshades like tomato and potato.

 Scarfo...then you should form a lobby to include a No Confidence box to be supplied in the returns Scarfie , otherwise your silent protest remains impotent.
 BTW you offer no alternative, other than to say no on earth do you arrive at a suitable Administration...?
 cheers for the tip on the nightshades...the fruit was leeching into my eyes anyway.

I don't expect to be able to make changes, just the same as I don't expect changes by voting left and right. Best I hope for it to make sense of the mess and happily go about my own business (taking a lesson from GBH there :-) while accommodating the imperfections.
From my understanding of human behaviour I know that the best people to govern are ones that don't want to. Jefferson being the only example I know of. Those that want control are simply expressing their personality trait to do so. While this should not necessarily forbid them from leadership, it takes a hell of a strong moral foundation for them to be able to govern without being corrupted(if they weren't in the first place). So discussions about morals and ethics should precede any talk or action around governance. The biggest weakness I see in all governance systems is that decay isn't factored in.

Christov makes a very good point. Voters often don't vote because they are de-motivated and or disillusioned resulting in a low turnout. The successful party can waltz off thinking they did ok. But if there was an option to tick "none-of-the-above" or something that reflects there dis-satisfaction, the parties might sit up and take more notice, if the numbers are big enough.

Yes a NOTA option would be good, and I have met people that have attempted to have the included. Though it still only a choice of no confidence of any of the candidates, rather than the system. I guess enough NOTA's would mean disatisfaction with the system. I suspect the changes might happen in a more radical way though, and not necessarily in a more beneficial way either. One of those european outfits surely has to crack soon and give us an indication.

Myers Brigss have extended the work of Jung to identify 16 distinct personality types of which 5 have direct inclination toward leadership. Some others also have leadership ability but those are more consultative rather than dominant. So about half of people have no inclination to leadership so yes you are correct on that. A board of directors type scenario seems like a better way to go when you consider the different abilities/talents of different people, rather than taking the risk that a single leader has the ability to harness the talents of others. Or if you do have a leader it is the board itself that decides who amongst them is qualified. Not necessarily perfect but better than what we have. I think limits to time in a leadership role would also be useful.

Haha yes. Just a further thought on our current mess. JK is probably an ESTP or perhaps an ESFP, neither of which have great planning skills or stragic thinking ability.

He is right when he says there are much higher energy and nutrient inputs to grow meet and dairy products in comparison to plant based foods. For exaple you have to feed alot of food to a cow to produce one kilo of meat.  Plus most of us eat way more meat than we need to and this is not at all healthy. Ask your gp about it.
Oh and vege's dont fart, belch, crap or wee everywhere lol

5L per person per day is what you can sell at the gate according to my organic source. This is my seconds farmgate source of unpasteuriesed milk so I can ony assume that this is perfectly legal. Mine is all turned to kefir. I can't see how an organic farm would have more impact Mist as they still supply Fontera as far as I know.
  Try this book: it is a good read. Organic is also about animal health and welfare not just human consumption or the environment.
  Yes vegetables require a lot of water, but the 20x ratio still applies to the amount required for animal protein. Bushes, vines and trees would not have the same issues however.

Do you not agree that all costs and benefits of dairy farming (for example) need to be accounted for in order to decide that dairy farming is a net benefit or cost to society, including costs on the environment?  

"Tell me how we maintain a strong robust economy without growth".
Stop right there.
Growth is exponential, all growth ramps to the vertical, none goes forever.  What many of us are calling for, is a sustainable physical regime, purposely planned. The alternative - the only one going - is that Mother Nature imposes sustainability on us, via overshoot and depletion/degradation.
Physics doesn't care a hoot about your 'robust economy', nor your level of 'poverty' or 'wealth'. And if you trash the physical world, your 'wealth' won't be buying much......
Whenever I see 'weighed' (balance, in other words) mentioned, I know it's a backward step being proposed in physical terms. Once any 'balance' is achieved, the push is on from that 'status quo' to a new 'balance'. It's an inexorable process, and all in the wrong direction.

Sounds like a Greens politician.  The problem is always somebodies elses fault and the solution is always more tax.

So you are saying Mr Joy is in some way responsible for the change in farming practise he highlighted?

I don't understand what you are saying here. Yes, most environmental supporters are quite happy for what are currently market externalities to be built directly in as market costs.
I think the point about the forms of Libertarianism which appears to have sprung up is that, its actually voluntarism, I think they should point out they are voluntarists just a small faction of libertarians, especially the Objectivist ones and this is a much more clear label.
Obviously the concept of all regulation being voluntary sounds a bit crazy, but if anybody really believes thats a good idea own up and say so.
Also here is a plain english question for voluntarists (and yes we all know they are usually against most wars, maybe one could say avoiding the question), would any of them say that American involvement in the second world war was less morally justified than American involvement in Iraq, because if voluntarism is morality then this follows pretty directly due to abolution of conscription. Yep, welcome to philosophical la, la land.

No the problem is all of ours as we all have to live in the mess.  

NZ needs sound liability laws  to hold individuals or corporations accountable for damaging the environment , whether that be by dumping waste , polluting the air , or by leaching of nitrates into waterways .......
...... it's not " sustainable " if we wreck it ...

Well, I think we all agree that unsustainable farming practises are not a good idea. What Mike has made pretty obvious however is that they are heavily driven by land speculation, as an economic incentive.
I think if there was a change in economic policy to make land speculation less attractive would allow these same farms to back off on their practise to more sustainable levels, and to allow the land to recover.
The question is how to make land speculation an unprofitable gamble (at least on aggregate), and I have always been leery that a capital gains tax simply doesn't achieve this. It seems possible a combination of policies including a capital gains tax would, though I don't think we have ever seen this implemented anywhere effectively.
I am going to suggest that simply crashing these business is probably not sensible, and makes action on this problem extremely difficult. Maybe a strategy of writing off the business debt in combination with making future speculation unprofitable could be the way to get these businesses out from under the pressure of the bankers thumb and able to engage in sustainable practise again.

He made his point rather easily, by pointing out that the minerals coming through the front gate don't all leave in milk tankers. If you want to make a point about intensity, I suggest its not well made by comparing cows/hectare to cows/acre. But thanks for quantifying his point 5-6x intensity.
As I pointed out, "how to make food production more sustainable and more profitable", is to write down large chunks of farm debt. Maybe you would like to explain why the manufacture of foreign owned bank profit is such a key component of the NZ farm industry product. Maybe we could get it added to the food labels, lactate contains 24% ANZ bank profits.

Who would have standing in these cases Gummy?

I would prefer impartiality and scientific based standing in these cases .....
...... which rules out the government &  councils , the farmers themselves , universities , and the local iwi .....
Leaving private companies to do professional laboratory analysis , and to apportion fines where clean-up operations are necessary .
...... but I'm open to better suggestions , if you can furnish some ...

I think that lessons from the US deeply undermine this concept.
Nobody needed to do any analysis to work out that the Cuyahoga river was polluted, it literally set on fire.
However actually doing something about this required the formation of many government environmental agencies. While I agree they are imperfect, and this includes being open to ecological bias, this appears to be the best way to actually get improved environmental standards. The point is the government has standing and can use that to represent groups like the local iwi, who would have a hell of a time trying to show they had standing without this.
Its so much cheaper for a private enterprise to simply move and setup elsewhere, when their business is effected by pollution, than to actually face down the problem. Thats why businesses have frequently not competed in this area (there are exceptions, but usually its expedient for them to just go somewhere else for a living).

Thats hardly the point is it, we shouldn't only be against flamable pollution. In addition to the oil, the river was also polluted with fat and greece from slaughter houses, gasoline spills, industrial acids and dyes, rubbish and raw or partially treated sewage.
Actually the 1969 fire wasn't the first river fire, or even the first river fire on the Cuyahoga, its just the first one to get massive attention.

I didn't make the claim that all dairy is bad, I didn't even make the claim that all pollution is unacceptable. However if you can't read a couple of posts up to see the point I was making its hardly surprising that you have no idea whats being discussed.
The point I was making, which I should hardly have to spell out to you, is that if you leave environmental protection up to a bunch of businesses suing each other, you don't get any useful level of environmental protection. 

Great stuff and obvious stuff. If only dairy farmers and their apologists - Federated Farmers and Fonterra - could see how the nation is turning off them they might start walking the walk rather than only ever talking the talk. Empty talk as evidenced by the 'One Plan' appeal by Feds. Dumb stuff!

I come back to my point there mist....let us establish just who are the biggest consumers of N.Z.  milk products...and incorporate a clean up levy.
 The Expansion of intensive Dairy is not  to satisfy local Market demand, and so proportonal spead of cost of clean up etc should be levied on Importers of N.Z. milk products ,if they wish to continue to recieve a higher standard of product under a Clean Green Banner.
I'd think it an affront of Fonterra to want local consumers to bear the burden in it's entirety, just as I'd think it  an affront for local farmers to want the same , just to protect their margins from which we the Taxpayer are supposed to be recieving this glorious trickle down effect.
Well, I'm feeling the trickle down allright, and I'm pretty certain it's a lot more viscous than milk, ...a fair ammount of solid matter with accompanying aroma.

Well I'm not in the ...IS BAD camp mist,  just ,strictly coming from a proportional burden point of view.

farmers produce the best food so if you stop eating we will stop farming

Just eat %30 less, that should do the job.

The reality is that intensive

dairying works because land values have increased hugely only because there are no costs for the environmental impacts
More the NZers working for Australian banks have decided to lend more volume of dollars to farmers.
What other business in NZ did they have to lend to.
How else would they could they satisfy their masters
And as if the Australians care - lol.
Mike, run round and have a coffee with the Banking studies unit.... please..... no we mean really.......
then or even jointly re write/write the piece again. You do have points to be made, but they are not the only points.
other define the word Reality...

Best article on this subject I have seen for ages.Good one Mike J.
I wonder what change might look like?
I find myself very impressed with the new fed Bruce Wills, a welcome change from the old adversarial approach. Most of us know that the conversation must take place about limits to herd size etc, its very embarrissing that it hasn't.It will of course!
I suspect a v.good conversation could now take place if you got Bruce Wills & Mike Joy in the same room to hammer out a start on this. Both highly capable and now the good will (tisk) is there with the Feds. May be a simple cuppa between these two men would be a good start. What do you reckon Mike??
WE all want to see this process started, why not get started??

`I suspect a v.good conversation could now take place if you got Bruce Wills & Mike Joy in the same room...`
Uh.....It would be a conversation of sorts, certainly(!)
Possibly though, their POLAR OPPOSITE views on dairy farming may mean  the conversation may not quite go as well as we`d all hope, Pureant....

I would have agreed if it was the last guy (Don), but I think Bruce has far more nous and good humour to pull it off. They dont have to solve the whole thing on the spot for gods sake, just to be able to start the conversation. Bruce has a lot of green cred, but is of course lobbying for the Feds,so is sqeezed from all over the show. 

My dislike for articles like this is immense, there isn't one acknowledgement in there of the thousands of dairy farmers who have done the right thing, according to Mike Joy they are ALL dirty dairyfarmers, so, for those who have spent heaps fencing off their waterways, planting their riverbanks, limiting or stopping their nitrogen use, the time comes when they say, whats the point, I'm going to be vilified anyway.
I'd like to direct Mike Joys attention towards the Aorere catchment project, THESE are the things that can happen when dialogue is created, instead of ranting and raving at people, I have to say, as a founder member of that project, if Mike Joy and his "attitude" had been present at the first few meetings of this project, I very much doubt it would have got the results it has today.

My understanding of that initiative R.H. is that shellfish farming businesses at the Aorere River estuary were negatively impacted due to upstream land-based farming practices - is that right?  And I understood things got quite heated in the community prior to the more rational dialogue getting underway?  Point being - there usually has to be a crisis of sorts - be it a social and/or an environmental one to get the parties around the table to begin the positive dialogue and get the remedial action going.

Things didn't get too heated..what happened was that in 2006 the food safety authority upgraded their reporting procedures, so the local mussel farmers could see that there would be a problem, basically more days they couldn't harvest because of the e-coli levels in the water, even small rain events were triggering those, so it was decided that as much as possible those effects from the small flood events would be mitigated...the aorere comes out of the kahurangi national park, and theres quite noticeable e-coli levels right on the park boundary, but nothing can be done about that, but the farmers below that point all did as much as they could to tidy up their act,  they were meeting the regulations as it was, they just went above and beyond that point as a community.
Theres a few things in the bay that are a problem, septic tanks in all the houses along the beach, are just down into sand, etc, it wasn't only the farmers that had to change, collingwood sewerage frequently ends up in the river in large flood events, etc.
The sad thing is, that now, probably because of people like Mike Joy and the idiots at the local council, the bay is actually stuffed for scallops, because theres no way that the enviromentalists/council would  allow the gravel buildup in the river to be removed, so the river is taking land in ever increasing amounts and dumping it in the bay :( I think one buildup is being talked about being removed now, so maybe 5 years down the track the council will finally decide its ok...)

Why would the dairy industry give guy any time,he should be tried for treason.

for wha treason?

Crimes against the Teat. I think he means there PDK
 He dared to udder discontent.

One thing leads to an udder.

Let us pray...
Dear Fonterra who art in Heaven (figuratively speaking)
Bellowed be thy name
Thy kingdom comes
 Thy will's been done
On earth the percentage 57
 Give us this day
 our daily moolah
 And spread our debts
On all the sinners, without regret
They've got it coming
All Moo.

Give us this day
our devalued bread
And forgive us our stress-passes
Even though we shoo off
Those who trespass against us.
open-cast coal-mining
is not sustainable
despite recent spin.
Just goes to prove
that big dairy is fossil-fuel-dependent
and thus temporary.

Joys comments are rather one eyed and simplistic. If he was worth his salt he wouldve talked about the extreme variation between farmer, farm types, farm systems, soil types, rainfall, etc etc. Which all have some influence on the amount of degredation of ones water ways.
Yes he is correct that the dairy industry especially has had a free hand in contributing to rising nitrate and phosphate in NZ's waterways and underground aquafiers.
Yes he is correct in that the dairy industry doesnt self police. 
Yes he is correct that the greed of the banking system and "some farmers" has resulted in poor farming practises.
He is wrong in that there are a number of farmers who do love the land and waterways and have done all they can to lower potential pollution risks.
Overall we have been far to complacent about the "health of dairy industry", and have allowed poor farm practises to develop at the expenses of both the environment and our image.
Our real problem is that companies such as Fonterra and the banks have allowed a new generation of indebted farmers (and directors) to develop. These people/companies cant/wont change, as their debt levels are all based on production which in turn is based on urea, fert, off farm inputs, and high stocking rates. They have no regard for the environment. 
It will take new laws, a long period of low payouts, high profile bankruptcies, re education of farmers etc, before we see the new breed of dominating common sense farmers appear    as honorable statesmen to our dairy industry.
It is bullshit that the expense of changing the industry image and systems should be an expence on all farmers - some of us have farmed prudently and with regard for our environment - why should they shoulder the cost of the few clowns that make the industry look like a bunch of greedy thieves. 

Grumpy - fair comment.
The legislative problem is that to clean up the culprits, the net has to be cast over the whole. T'is always the way, and the danger is that some who have solved their issues, get pinged for not doing it in a 'complying' way, via prescription. Better a set of standards to be met.

As I recall it, here is a ppm threshold for 'drunk driving'.

For those that think the whole dairy farming is distroying the enviroment thing is bollocks take this simple test. Go to any region that is heavily dairy farmed, find the local stream, take a look at it then see if you would be happy for your kids to take a swim in it. Oh and try to find a spot where they wont get tangled in all the slimmy water weed growing on the nitrogen run off.
To be safer you could drink a mug of the water and after a few hours if you have developed a major gastro-intestinal infection you will know its full of ecoli from cows shitting near the river upstream and its unsafe for swimming lol.

The local maori spend all day looking for pooha and eels in my creeks - Im sure they take this stuff home for a big fryup - they keep coming back and seem to be getting fatter so I must be a good farmer ah?
Your point is valid though, however compared to Australia and such like we are blessed with plentiful rainfall which does help to wash away our sins and no dout is reasponsible for the plentiful supply of good snapper in the Hauraki Gulf.

Great article I agree us farmers need to reduce our herds, I raise a calf - 18months of work & risk sell to works $1200 - 4 weeks later it leaves the supermarket realising $4000+. So my pay is $15.38 per week - the middle men make $700+ per week seems an imbalance in risk/work/reward perhaps. So whats my solution 18 month steers now $5,000 only need half as many, pay off loan real quick, no fertilizers needed and best of all create unemployment in the parasites who feed off my labour, knowledge and risk - so they can't afford the meat protein, no problem I will rent them a small plot to grow veges a couple of sheep and a cow, and with this new wealth be able to enjoy the flash cars, houses, toys and holdidays they can't afford any more, I will show them the photo's in their teabreaks.Just remember before you push a step to far you need to eat and the farm is were it starts without farmers you starve, don't look after us at your peril, keep pushing and we step aside and allow you to step over the cliff.

To take issue with Scarfies attitude to voting -
May I suggest that he might like to consider supporting The NZ Conservative Party as they are the only Party currently pushing for Binding Citizens Referenda - ie a similar but not identical system to that which ahs been working extremely well in Switzerland for over 160 years --??
 It may also be of interest to those who are directly affected [ Rural /Farming NZ]  that the Conservative Party also has a Fundamental Policy committment to removing the ETS from the statute books at the earliest possible juncture!

                 You are in the wrong area i would gladly swim or drink from  any river or stream in South otago.Bit cold at rthe moment but still plenty of dairying.