Cross posted from No Right Turn
Environment Canterbury has finally proposed nitrogen limits to stop dairy farmers from poisoning Christchurch’s water supply. And naturally, farmers are whining about it:
A proposed move by Environment Canterbury (ECan) to protect Christchurch’s drinking water by setting tough – some would say, draconian – nitrate reductions in the decades ahead and stop the nasties creeping below the Waimakariri River has some dairy farmers in states of high anxiety.
There are about 1.3 million dairy cattle in the region, a doubling from 2003 made largely possible by the expansion of irrigation schemes.
Some farmers consider the schedule of reductions beyond 2030 as a disincentive to keep going or encourage the next generation into the business.
Good. Nitrate kills children and increases long-term risks for bowel cancer. If it gets into Christchurch’s drinking water supply, it will be a public health catastrophe. And while farmers are following the climate change playbook and trying to pin the blame elsewhere (the canterbury foothills, mate), we simply didn’t have this problem before their cows started shitting everywhere during the dairy boom.
On climate change, on freshwater quality, and now on nitrate toxicity, the message is clear: if we want to survive, we need to massively cut back on dairy farming. Farmers simply need to find something else to do with their land. And if they’ve loaded up on debt to bail in to peak dairy on some of the hottest and dryest land in the country, they made a poor business decision, and they deserve to pay the price for that (Seriously: Canterbury is a terrible place to grow cows. The only stupider places are the Mackenzie Country and Hawke’s Bay, and anyone stupid enough to do that deserves to lose their money). As for what they can do instead, I hear trees are reliably profitable now. Or they can always move to a city and get a job in an industry that doesn’t rely on destroying the planet for private profit.