Don't Blame Farmers

The passing of the Waikato Healthy Rivers Plan will instil new fear to farmers across the country to change the way they manage their farms in the future.

Farmers, of course, will be angry that the bureaucracy of Regional Councils will soon have another round of reasons to whip the living daylights out of them, as if they haven't endured enough already.

Federated Farmers will continue to do their political best to soften the blow and the public perception of farmers may drop a notch or two.

This has caused me to climb to the top of the hill and look out at the big picture.

Several pivotal questions come to light over this dilemma.

  1. Do we really have a problem with our streams, rivers and lakes? Yes, we do.
  2. Is there an excess of Phosphates and Nitrates leaching through our soils and into our waterways?Yes, there is.
  3. Is it fair and just to blame the farmer for this mess? NO, I do not believe that we should blame the farmer entirely.

There are two factors contributing to the pollution of our waterways;
  1. Effluent Management and cattle having access
  2. Phosphate and Nitrogen application compromising the plant's ability to hold on to those nutrients.
    I do believe the Industry has Number One under control and this does require direct input from the farmer. Compliance to rules and regulations under general circumstances should be the responsibility of the farmer.

    However, I believe Number Two is another story!

    Fertiliser application and soil nutrient needs for pasture and cropping is generally a practice which farmers leave to a specialist. These specialists are called on by farmers to advise them on what they need to grow their grass and crops. Possibly 95 percent of fertiliser in New Zealand is sold by two large companies, Ballance and Ravensdown. Interestingly, it is rumoured that these two large companies have influence on the education of Soil and Fertiliser scientists in New Zealand. I was impressed upon reading Ballance's website to find that most of the specialists who are employed by them to advise and guide farmers what to buy, are very well educated indeed.

    While I was pouring another mug of coffee I got to thinking, what do these big companies make?

    Now I know why those environmentalists are so mad. Those companies have turned their well- educated scientists into salesmen!

    Farmers have been brainwashed and swear allegiance to these specialists who are now leaving them holding the can. It appears that this great science that has been taught needs an overhaul.

    Maybe it's someone else's turn. I hear a leading Scientist is rambling on about some new science which he doesn't understand. Maybe if he stopped communicating and listened, he might learn something!

    So just a gentle suggestion to Councils - turn around and throw the stones the other way and give the farmers a break!

    David Law
    Forward Farming Consultancy ( x Dairy Farmer)


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