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Bruce Wills notes that our farming practices are lauded by communities half a world away, but only seen as a 'milch cow' by local councils

Rural News
Bruce Wills notes that our farming practices are lauded by communities half a world away, but only seen as a 'milch cow' by local councils
"If its efficient, tax it."

By Bruce Wills*

Federated Farmers Vice-President, Dr William Rolleston, not only attended the Green Party’s mini-conference on climate change but returned with all of his limbs intact.

For all of the misreporting about agriculture and the Emissions Trading Scheme, we are in it as much as you are reading this.

From fuel to power and ‘number eight’ wire, farmers pay the ETS like everybody else.

The only difference is the treatment of farm biological emissions and even here there seems to be movement.

Last year, we saw that golden UK Daily Mail headline “Buy New Zealand lamb to save the planet.” You can add to that the UK’s Observer on Sunday, UK celebrity chef Jay Rayner and his article, “Why worrying about food miles is missing the point”.

In it, Rayner not only recants ‘food miles’ but swaps sides and it deserves a full reprint in the Sunday Star Times here.

“Three years later,” he writes, “and I am reading an academic paper with a very snappy title: Food Miles – Comparative Energy/Emissions Performance of New Zealand's Agriculture Industry  ... I was so baffled by the report I wanted to know whether I had read it correctly. I emailed Tim Benton, professor of population ecology at Leeds University who is also the "UK Champion for Global Food Security", charged with co-ordinating work on the subject between research councils and government departments. He truly understands both the global food challenges that we face and what sustainable intensification means. He had been an invaluable source of academic papers and scholarly advice for my investigation into the challenges of food security from the very start. I wanted to know whether the report was simply a function of the New Zealand agriculture sector attempting to protect its commercial interests by ferociously massaging some numbers.  He threw in some caveats but, he said: "The overall picture is probably true".

That our farms are pretty good is even known by Dr Jan Wright, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.  Speaking last year, Dr Wright said, "…I am actually less concerned about agriculture than I am than these heavy industrial emitters and that's because the agricultural gases are different. It is difficult and there are challenges there ... I say agriculture should come in but I don't have the same problem being generous to it ..."

While New Zealand’s biological emissions continue to increase so is the efficiency of our agricultural production.

The amount of methane produced in a litre of milk is falling because of better farming practices, or, as Jay Rayner told readers up in the UK, “the researchers found that the actual weight of nitrogen fertiliser used was roughly similar in both countries (80kg per hectare in NZ to 78kg in the UK). However, in New Zealand they were getting a yield of 50 tonnes per hectare, as against 14 tonnes in Britain. Where lamb was concerned yield was higher in the UK than New Zealand, but so was nitrogen fertiliser use by a factor of more than 13. New Zealand simply has a better landscape and climate for rearing lamb and apples”.

I imagine Dr Rolleston told the Green Party that while we have our challenges, science and agriculture must be given a chance to solve them - a point made recently by the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre’s Dr Andy Reisinger on RadioNZ; “we don't have methane free cows at this stage, and that's largely why New Zealand has invested, on a per capita basis, more than any other developed country in research to develop solutions that allow us to reduce agricultural emissions without constraining agricultural production".

Yet while UK chef Jay Rayner tells UK consumers, “New Zealand simply has a better landscape and climate” for food production, that message isn’t getting through to some councils. 

While Auckland developers enviously eye up farm land for its expansion it is not alone from putting pressure on farmers and farming.

Nelson City Council wants the 14 farm owners left within city limits to accept rates increases of almost $50,000.

That province is not alone.

Waitaki District Council has proposed rates increases of up to 25 percent for farmers when those in town face a more palatable 3.5 percent

Remind me, what is the prevailing rate of inflation? 

Then we have Environment Southland's dairy differential rate which smells like 'an environmental tax'.

The council’s 2013-14 plan started out wanting farmers to pay some $1.2 million but that was reduced to ‘just’ under a million dollars. Bearing in mind rates, fees and charges too, Federated Farmers policy advisor David Cooper put it to the council like this, ''If you are trying to put dairying in Southland on the back foot and alienate farmers, then you are on the right track''. 

Right now Federated Farmers is deep into submitting on every council plan affecting farmers.

While the ETS attracts headlines rates can be like death by a thousand cuts by viewing farming as some ‘milch cow’.

If we want to double primary industry exports by 2025 that is doable but only if we can get policy working with us, not against us.


Bruce Wills is the President of Federated Farmers. You can contact him here »

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"want to double primary industry exports by 2025 that is doable but only if we can get policy working with us, not against us."


So how many times do you think you can double output Bruce? ie: what is the limit of your exponential growth? And what energy supply to you believe will underwrite that growth?




The labour govt spent around 10 years albeit the $$ on this ETS, which is approaching its death.


What if they spent those resources on expanding primary sector or developing other sectors? It is sad to see govt act so irrationally with a very dubious assumption of AGW.





xingmowang..The ETS is being shown up for what is..a crock..AGW is a non event..lets move on..        

If those with a "green bent" want to do somthing useful then go try clean up our rivers...protest against ugly windmills.. but leave the cows alone..



Scarfie has the valid question.


But regarding costs and environmental impacts:  At some point, the growth-of-production/comsumption system had to slow, then slowly unwind. At that point, it was never going to have the excess 'capital' (actually, the excess energy to do the needed work) to mitigate/sequester resultant pollution (any resulting change in the biosphere) adequately.


So we have never addressed sequestration under the current system, and never will.


Regarding farming/food - we can remove the methane by removing meat (I'm no 'veggie', just following a logical train of thought here...) from the equation. That leaves the FF burning, but food-production is a small part of that whole, and last on the triage list to eliminate.


The big problem - as ever - is the assumption that by doing something with money, we can do something with reality. Works till it doesn't.


No Scarfie doesnt have a point..

We are sitting on plenty of as yet untapped resources.Plenty of scope left.

the article B Wills refers to relates to doubling the "value" of exports not the output.

Could be something as simple as processing more trees as opposed to exporting them in log form..



The Greens don't get the science behind the soil. Neither does the mainstream media.




The greens are a political movement not an enviromental one

Interesting studies using satellite imagry show that developing countries extracting and using fossil fuels are better for the enviroment that similar counties which dont consume FFuels and cut down trees for fuel/energy.(the latter have major problems with soil erosion/moisture retention as well as economic issues)

..(sorry still trying to find the link)


Inevitabley Don M the Altruistic become part of the machine to engage in the mechanics of change,once  inside , the urgency gives way to proceedure, all the time thinking they have the machines measure...they take time...the more time they take ...the more the machine engages them...until, it is they who have been assimilated and found unrecognisable to their own followers.


That is of course your opinion and its simply in-correct...but the get environmental work done, you have to enter politics...its where the changes are made.

Both your points are covered by over-population. Talk to any really green person such as myself and reducing population is the number 1 goal of anyone serious to reduce the environmental damage, poverty and indeed increase wealth per capita plus save it for future generations.

Further, go back say 100, or 200 years to the water pressure strip mining for gold the good old US capitalists / exploiters were doing before it got banned....that wasnt even for food.  Lots of good top soil flushed into the rivers there.







Steven you are true to stereotype..   i.e  The greens are anti people. Do you want to reduce the worlds pop or curb its growth?

Dont forget that humans are native/natural organisms too.I agree that the world popn growth needs be reduced but caveman thinking by banning stuff wont achieve this.It will make us into a 3rd world nation (these nations have the highest popn growth) which sorta defeats your argument.

Looking back 200years at goldmining techniques with the hindsight of history is not really any kind of argument  (although in 10 years time we will look back at the stupidity of ETS with the same kind snobbery)

as John Laws once remarked.."  make no mistake the last crocodille on earth would make short work of the last human animal rights activist on earth.."


No Don m not anti people. that tar brush just doesn't wash at all....and a John Laws (for God sakes) anecdote is hardly befitting a reasoned rebuttle.

 Anti proliferation to the point of endangering the species, other species that reside here too, rescources to promise a dignified future to a common man.

 That is not anti's anti growth for growths sake in the monetary sense, growth to bolster religious numbers, growth to satisfy whatever human greed motivates them to advocate producing more of our species on a planet that is showing symtoms of our excesses.

 That is not anti people...and only a people like Laws would make the jump to saying it is ....humorous maybe...factual not.

 Of course there are twats amongst Greens.....are they not reasonabley represented in all walks of life.


I'd be interested in seeing that link. I'm having trouble thinking of a developing country that is using fossil fuels and not chopping down forests (with the side note that deforestation is normally for agricultural clearance not fuel use)


Bruce, while I agree that rates should not be going up like this,  its quite simple, councils (and everybody else) is looking for income. They recognise some cannot pay any more so are looking for easier touches...its a rob peter to pay paul scenario and one long commented on by myself and others.