Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Dairy Farmers and Bullying Tactics
I would like to congratulate this year's winners of the Southland Ballance Farm Environmental Awards. Michael and Karen Blomfield clearly demonstrated it is possible to farm in an environmentally sensitive manner and still run a profitable dairy farm. It is disappointing when there are so many great examples of responsible practice that could be celebrated that the industry lets itself down with bullying tactics and arrogant behaviour.
Environment Southland's new rules would create few challenges for responsible farmers like the Blomfields and Hugh Gardyne's speech to Environment Southland quite rightly recognized the importance of having some bottom line expectations for new conversions. The dairy farmers who walked out of the Environment Southland meeting have not directly criticised the points made in Mr Gardyne's speech but appear to object to anything other than self-regulation and want the external costs of their industry continue to be subsidized by ratepayers and taxpayers.
It is difficult to trust the dairy industry when such promising initiatives like the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord are not always supported in good faith. MAF investigations recently revealed that the claimed 69% of Tasman dairy farmers who had met the requirements of the accord was an exaggeration and the actual figure of compliance was only 17%. According to MAFs most recent report on the progress of the accord, Southland has one of the worst provincial records for effluent discharge compliance. Only 40% of farms were recorded as fully compliant and 20% were seriously noncompliant.
Even considering any dispute around the definition of what should reasonably be called noncompliance the dairy industry have some way to go before they should be trusted with self regulation and I fully support Environment Southland's new rules.
It is especially concerning that Bill English has jumped in to support the dairy farmers actions and is critical of Environment Southland without first checking the facts.