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The Dairying Bombshell - by Dr Jan Wright

The delivery of Jan Wright's (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment) Report on Land Use and the Environment last week has really put the veritable cat amongst the pigeons, and guess what - no amount of fencing off of waterways, and ponding of effluent will cut the mustard - that is her bottom line. 

Following on Theo Spierlings warning two weeks ago that if Fonterra failed to protect waterways, it had no future, and that New Zealnd was 10 years behind its European rivals on green issues - the implication being that failure to act now will result in international action to penalise our dairy industry if we keep going the way have over the last ten years.

This is crazy stuff - our farmers have generally been in denial for ever and a day - and that no doubt includes those elected to the Board of Fonterra - the elephant in the room. The attempt by the ranks of Federated Farmer representatives to blame ineffective town waste-water systems over the years as equivalent to, or worse that their own fouling can now be seen for what is and always has been - pure spin, and poisonous denial of responsibility for the constant and continued deterioration of our rivers. It is utterly redolent of the principle of privatising the profits of dairying while socialising the effects through foisting their costs on to the entire community.

I have been railing on about this since this blog first appeared three years ago, and although we border on a large and prosperous dairying community, not once have I had a single response on the issue - it is and always has been 'see no evil, hear no evil....', with Wall Street's Gordon Grecco's "Greed is good" maxim prevailing, if unstated. Our dairy farmers, particularly those who ignore the damage, live by this credo even while claiming to be the "backbone of the economy", and they have widespread political support for this view.

But beyond all this is the despicable role of the banks in approving ever higher borrowing of farmers purchasing over-valued land that can only be supported by ever increasing stocking rates. The technical aspects of the roundabout need not be explored any deeper here, but the outcome is surely that we are going to have to follow the European pattern of enclosure on concrete pads, collection and full treatment of effluent. Some European countries with even more cows have managed to dramatically reduce the effects of effluent to manageable proportions using these methods, and see no reason why we should be able to continue to drag the chain. Open pasture grazing may be romantic, but it is an outdated, and unacceptable practice in the 21st century.   

It will effect the bottom line - that is for sure, but the alternative does not bear thinking about. Our farming community had better absorb this message right now or else they will find themselves facing increasing international opprobrium as our methods of producing protein for Asia come under ever more searching examination, and trade barriers are erected. 




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