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It was annoying to read Nick Smith's smug pronouncement regarding 'conditionality' that National has put on the planned phasing in of agricultural greenhouse gases into the ETS by 2015 - already a major concession to the extremely vocal farming lobby. National will 'review' this planned introduction in 2014 according to the announcement yesterday of their pre-election environmental policy. I have no intention of commenting on the simultaneous announcement of additional 'phasing in' of forestry and industrial obligations, but the whole thing does appear to becoming a mishmash of conflicting and ideologically influenced measures.

It provides little confidence that this Government has come to grips with the need to take urgent action to combat global warming. The Greens will take votes off them on this issue alone, and my earlier prediction of a 15% share of the vote is becoming more and more likely as Labour's stance is hardly distinguishable, other than sticking to its 2013 farming implementation date.

The really annoying mind-set that seems to determine National's attitude to the farming industry is that "we are dependent on it". It seems that for that reason alone, the inclusion of farming which represents nearly half the national emission total must be delayed indefinitely. Nick Smith indicated that it (the National Government "will not impose a liability on farmers unless there are practical technologies for them to reduce emissions, and more progress made internationally to reduce emissions".

This is patent nonsense of course, and a further sop to National's undoubted water-tight rural constituency. Nick Smith went on to make a very telling comment that indicated that the Government would not include de-stocking as in any way a solution - it has to be 'practical technology'.

The point that he and others seem to overlook is that there has been a constant increase in stocking rates, district by district, including our own, ever since cheap supplementary feeding, with palm kernel in particular became available several years ago, primarily to deal with the effects of drought. Farmers quickly became enamoured with this easy peasy method of increasing production from the same acreage.  There is no indication of any reduction in the use of these techniques - to the contrary, they appear to be being used to increase milk production off the same amount of land all over the country. Like night follows day, increased supplementary feeding leading to increased stocking rates with consequential additional and excessive effluent and greenhouse gas emmissions.

This is not rocket science, and it is mealy mouthed in the extreme to defer to some mythical greenhouse gas technology. Our rivers are suffering because of this increased effluent run-off, not because of the lack of technology, but because of the reluctance to invest in existing technology. It may be more easily characterised as the result of sheer greed, or the need to service excessive borrowing for which the banks need to take direct responsibility. A large proportion of farmers appear reluctant to take this step until forced, and the lag between increased stocking and effluent treatment investment is palpable, along with the influence of farmer dominated regional authorities that restrain compliance measures, and insist on 'education' as preferable. Bollocks! And Fonterra's sanctions are about as effective as one might expect from a farmer controlled organisation - all talk.

Until these facts are acknowledged, and steps taken to reverse the trend, excessive effluent run-off will increasingly pollute our rivers. The only possible way to deal with this problem once and for all is to restrict stocking rates through legislative action. No farmer is going take a blind bit of notice until he is told that he may not increase stocking beyond acceptable levels without the need for supplementary feeding, other than in order to deal with adverse meteorological events. And those rates should be determined by the level, and effectiveness of the technology employed. Farmers will scream "property rights" of course - as usual. We should scream right back "Yes, but this does not include the right to drop cow-shit and nitrates in our rivers".

There is not a single party that includes a stocking level provision in its election policy. They should, or are they all so blinded by the rhetoric of the farmers' organisations that have been so effective in turning the transparent into the opaque, and protecting their own interests. They must be laughing all the way to the bank, and celebrating with the managers who have encouraged this outcome.




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Reader Comments (1)

We now know that the rise in dairy cow stocking rates on farms have caused the degradation of waterways and estuaries. This appears to be acceptable to authority because of the resulting economic activity. This clash between wealth/profit and the remaining environment causes concern to groups like forest and bird but the recipients of the wealth wilfully obfuscate/misinform to protect their interests. Will capitalism spell the downfall of our natural environment? Note the kiwifruit industry, beehives, erosion, etc.

December 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeter H. Wood

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