Keep our eyes on the prize

There’s plenty of good news too

By Charlotte Glass, Director and founder of Agri Magic Ltd

It might not be the negative fodder that the media enjoys relaying, but the fact is that in my experience, our farming clients have been responding extremely well to the changes being asked of them with respect to the impact of farming on the environment. Over the past ten years, farmers – particularly those operating in regions with updated plans that already have effect, such as the Land and Water Regional Plan – have demonstrated that they are very capable of responding to the challenges of freshwater quality. Most irrigated farmers in Canterbury operate within audited farm environment plans. They work hard to achieve the best audit grades they can and take pride in demonstrating their change. The rate of change and reduction in nutrient losses associated with farming has been massive, given that it is no mean feat to change farm systems or to afford to invest in the upgrades that so many have undertaken.

Let us tell that amazing good news story

I’ve worked for some excellent farmers both in New Zealand and abroad. I’m not sure that all NZ farmers are the best in the world, but I do back them 100% as being world leaders with respect to our ability to adapt and change. Kiwi farmers are generally well educated and used to responding to signals. Where the logic stacks up, we change fast!

More and more farmers are working with their broader catchments to both monitor and manage their impacts on freshwater. They are meeting reductions in diffuse nutrient loss from their farm systems and investing in the infrastructure that allows them to farm with more precision and minimise risks to the environment. In some catchments more may be required, but let’s take a moment and recognise that farmers have heard the issues and taken steps to act.

Yes, there are frustrations

Recent Freshwater Regulation change has slowed down progress by introducing confusion that has not been helpful. There may be more disruption to come as the Essential Freshwater package folds in and central government takes more of a role. The good thing is that we have worked out what we need to do to be better at managing our impacts. Let’s hope the rules will all line up again soon and we can get back to business. As is often the case, when frustration boils over, occasionally people with microphones get things by the left leg… hopefully our friends outside of farming forgive those aspects that may not have been articulated exactly in line with the facts during recent events. Hopefully they realise that these things happen when people get fed up.

The prize is local and global

Let’s keep our eyes on the prize. Kiwi farmers want to be sustainable, and they need to be profitable to achieve that end. We need to trade, and while we export a big proportion of our production we are still small in an international context. We don’t dictate, we respond to what our customers demand. Right now our customers in high value markets are increasingly interested in sustainability, especially our impact on the climate. That is where we should continue to be improving and telling our good stories of how we are delivering on those goals.

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