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Saturday
Jun042016

Bovine Realism - At Last!

A most astonishing story by Laurel Stowell appeared in the 'Whanganui Chronicle' on Wednesday reporting on a speech delivered to the Whanganui Federated Farmers by its former President (from the early 2000s) - Rachel Stewart. 

Rachel did not mince words as she lambasted the dairy industry from top to bottom. Need less to say, she was not exactly flavour of the month at the meeting, and there were probably many who wondered how on earth she was elected in the first place. A pathetic rejoinder was mounted with all the usual intelligence that we have grown to expect from the Fed. District and Sector presidents. I bet that by Tuesday, there will be some serious heavying from the Fed. Head Office, and PR releases flying to all their MSM supporters in order to keep this belatedly under wraps.

But Rachel was speaking 'truth to power' and with any luck it may indicate a major re-examination of the whole rationale of dairying, let alone the intensive variety going on in the boondocks. Certainly Government was not not let off the hook as Rachel let fly at the $100m clean water subsidy that has become our way of helping to poor souls stay afloat. And it won't be the last as the Feds try to draw comparisons with the $500m Australian Feseral pre-election bribe to their dairy industry. 

The last thing they will want is any more stories like this Rachel Stewart bombshell appearing in the provincial, let alone national media. I don't like to quote other peoples stories in full, but this is just so good that hers (and Laurel's!) words need to be savoured by those of us who have been pointing out these uncomfortable facts for many years: 

"New Zealand needs to get rid of 80 per cent of its dairy cows because dairying is dirtying our water.

That was the message delivered to the annual meeting of Wanganui Federated Farmers by its former president.

Rachel Stewart, president of the group for four years in the early 2000s and guest speaker at Friday's annual meeting, is an "ardent critic" of farming.

Ms Stewart, recently crowned Opinion Writer of the Year at New Zealand's premier journalism awards, began her talk by saying she loved farming - but dairy farming was responsible for 80 per cent of the degradation of New Zealand waterways and Federated Farmers needed to stop denying it.

This year's Budget allocated $100 million over 10 years to cleaning up waterways.

"The taxpayer cleans up, and the polluters continue to pollute," said Ms Stewart, who lives at Westmere and writes a regular newspaper opinion column.

At the same time, the National-led Government was encouraging more irrigation and more dairying.

Tourism overtook dairy as the country's main income earner in November, and tourists came to New Zealand for its great outdoors and "100 per cent pure" reputation.

Government was attacking "the very thing that brings in the tourists - the environment".

It was encouraging "all-eggs-in-one-basket" dairying and cutting Department of Conservation spending.

Irrigated dairy farming made water, a public asset, available to increase private wealth, she said.

It was equivalent to a subsidy for dairy farmers and "the biggest transfer of public wealth into private hands".

Federated Farmers, banks and agricultural publications had been complicit in encouraging dairy farmers to keep borrowing.

"Is it that dairy farmers think being $5 million in debt is normal? That isn't normal."

She slated the Feds for denying waterways were degraded, and trying to blame sewage contamination from towns.

The "urban liberals" who "pretty much run the country" found that laughable.

Federated Farmers should hire public relations people rather than letting provincial presidents make statements urban people found "moronic", she said.

There was only one dairy farmer at the annual meeting, Brian Doughty.

Mr Doughty was voted dairy section chairman on Friday, and said he had not been a denier.

"All Federated Farmers need is to publicly acknowledge they have actually screwed a fair bit of water in New Zealand," Mr Doughty said.

"The next thing is to stand up and try and do something about fixing it."

He is allowed to leach 40kg of nitrogen and is doing 4kg at the moment.

Ms Stewart expected to be shot down over her speech, and pointed out a cross on the back of her shirt that would make a target.

She did get a reaction.

Tim Matthews said farmers had put in a lot of work, fencing and planting their streams.

Ms Stewart said that didn't capture nitrogen, which leached through soil into groundwater.

Lyn Neeson said food prices would rise if farmers had to up their environmental management.

Ms Stewart predicted there would be synthetic milk in five years, and people wouldn't be eating meat in 10 years.

"The dairy industry is in decline, and I'm sorry to say that we need some people to go under."

Golly, - I just keep re-reading this in wonderment - she says it all, and with gusto. And she has the answers for the deniers!

I just hope we hear more from Rachel - she could easily replace that useless Whanganui MP - Chester Borrows. I bet he will run a mile from confronting this articulate truth-teller." 

 

 

 

 

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