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The NZIER Report on dairying and fresh water

Written By: - Date published: 8:47 am, September 20th, 2019 - 19 comments
Categories: farming, farming, water - Tags: , ,

Press Release from NZIER

Getting the balance right : The effect of water quality proposals on the New Zealand economy

16 September 2019

NZIER report to the New Zealand Fish and Game Council, Forest and Bird and Greenpeace.

Many of New Zealand’s waterways are now degraded.

A major and growing source of this degradation is the leaching of nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorous – from intensive dairy farming.

The government is proposing regulations…

The government has released a discussion document that details proposals to address this situation. Some of these proposals will place restrictions on farming activity in the form of limits on the amount of nutrients that can leach into the soil.

…which will likely spur innovation

Experience here and overseas with environmental regulation is that often unimagined innovations result, reducing the costs and increasing the effectiveness of those regulations. But innovation is bigger than big inventions or new technology. At the farm level, it includes adopting advanced management practices already used on the best farms.

The dairy sector is one part of a growing economy

While output from the dairy sector has been increasing, looking below the top-line figures of gross export receipts reveals a nuanced picture of its direct contribution to the New Zealand economy.

Between 1991 and 2017, the average combined direct contribution of dairy farming and dairy manufacturing was 3.09% of GDP. It is now about the same size as the tourism sector.

Since 1945, the total number of people employed in the agriculture sector has stayed largely stable.

In 2013, farmers and farm managers represented 2.92% of the national workforce, while farm, forestry and garden workers represented a further 2.26%.

Likely impact on national GDP

Due to the relatively small size of the dairy industry, the impacts of the government reforms are unlikely to be major at the national level, and not felt for many years due to the long lead in times proposed.

A reduction in GDP from intensive dairy would, however, have uneven local effects, given the regional distribution of the sector.

The dairy sector has, however, been changing

There was been a marked shift in farming away from beef and sheep towards dairy, especially in the South Island. Irrigation and fertiliser use have also increased dramatically.

The combined result has been a steady increase in the amount of nitrogen from dairy farms leaching into waterways.

Getting the balance right

Tighter regulation of water quality will have costs as well as benefits.

New Zealand does not face stark choices between having a dairy sector versus having clean waterways. Experience shows that, by focusing on profits, not production, farms can increase their economic returns and reduce their impact on the environment.

New Zealand’s best farms are already doing this.
There are, however, some places where even the most efficient dairy farming will have an adverse environmental impact.

The government should be providing more information

As it works through the reform process, the government should be focusing on further study of the following areas:

  • The behavioural responses of farmers to regulation.
  • How well good management practice is being taken up.
  • The barriers to changing behaviour.
  • The level of compliance to the new policies and regulations.
  • The performance of Councils in implementing, monitoring and enforcing the new policies and regulations.
  • The current distribution of farm profitability.
  • The relationship between soil types and nutrient leaching.

The results of this work should be made readily available to farmers, councils and the general public.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Press Release from Greenpeace

by Gen Toop 17 September 2019

New Zealand’s new fresh water regulation rules will have no major impacts on the national economy, according to an independent report just out.

The report by independent economic consultancy New Zealand Institute of Economic Research shows that dairying represents about 3% of national GDP and is behind tourism in export earnings.

The study, commissioned by Forest & Bird, Greenpeace, and Fish and Game, found the impact on national GDP of the proposed reforms were unlikely to be major, stating that: “Due to the relatively small size of the dairy industry, the impacts of the government reforms are unlikely to be major at the national level, and not felt for many years due to the long lead in times proposed.”

It found that in 2013, farmers and farm managers represented 2.92% of the national workforce, while farm, forestry and garden workers represented a further 2.26%.

The NZIER report states that “Experience shows that by focusing on profits, not production, farms can increase their economic returns and reduce their impact on the environment.”

Forest & Bird’s Fresh Water Advocate, Annabeth Cohen says “The contribution of dairying to GDP does not account for the destruction to rivers, lakes and wetlands and the billions of dollars spent cleaning up the mess from intensive dairying and poor farm practices.

“The real backbone of the economy is the environment. Most importantly a clean environment provides the essentials – the air we breathe, the water we drink and mahinga kai.

“Our precious freshwater fish, birds, and invertebrates are priceless,” Ms Cohen says.

Greenpeace campaigner Gen Toop said the report comes at a crucial moment for New Zealand’s rivers, as the Government is currently consulting on new freshwater rules.

“This report should put an end to the exaggerated claims that new water rules will end pastoral farming or have a major impact on New Zealand’s economy.”

“Far from ‘throwing farmers under the tractor’ the report reveals that new rules to protect our rivers will likely spur greater innovation in farming to reduce its environmental impact,” Ms Toop says.

It adds that the ‘New Zealand farming community is proud of its tradition of innovation, and there is no reason to suppose it will not rise to the challenges of the new environmental rules.’

The study was commissioned to show the relative size of the farming sector within the New Zealand economy and to gauge the potential impacts of the freshwater reforms announced earlier this month.

A copy of the report can be found here

_______________________________________________________________________________

Front page image of Geraldine organic dairy Clearwater Farm

19 comments on “The NZIER Report on dairying and fresh water”

  1. marty mars 1

    imo Be good to think some farmers would step up, stop moaning and thinking just of themselves, and rejoin the solution side of the equation instead of the problem side.

    Good, caring farmers can lead their less enlightened associates to the way forward. I really hope the heel dragging farmers make an effort and give it a go – the public tolerance for that not happening is fast declining. They need to get on the truck before they get a hurry up.

  2. Kevin 2

    Is anyone aware of any study into the long term effects of pouring of millions of tonnes of Superphospate on to New Zealand pasture for the past 80-odd years?

    Nutrient leaching is almost considered a relatively new problem but this has been going on for a very long time.

    • weka 2.1

      I don't know what research has been done but this is the fundamental difference between conventional farming and organic/regenerative farming. The former sees fertility as chemistry, the latter as biological (i.e. soil microorganisms). This is why conventional farming can never be sustainable and why regenag inherently takes ecology into account.

      Plus, Peak Phosphorus

    • Robert Guyton 2.2

      Plus cadmium.

    • aom 2.3

      Don't know what the long-term effects on NZ are but it sure as hell didn't do much for Nauru.

  3. Ad 3

    If only the government had a bill that could shunt Fonterra from requiring perpetual purchase of bulk milk forever and kill the disease of mass production……

  4. Gosman 4

    Wow. Who would have thought focusing on profits was actually beneficial to the environment…

    • Stuart Munro. 4.1

      It's a thing you see in a lot of businesses – someone mistaking a production heuristic for the goal. This is the kind of thing Deming and Imai were trying to get across to manufacturers back in the day.

    • weka 4.2

      Not really a surprise, sustainability people have been saying for a long time that it's possible to run a farm business economically without wrecking the land. It's not a focus on profits, it's a focus on what is sustainable (ecologically and economically).

    • lprent 4.3

      Well Gosman – How is this is a revelation for you? I guess you came directly from the ark slashing and burning without ever bothering to look at basic economics.

      /sarc

      Profit has never been a particular issue in green issues for anything except to idiot right-wing nut jobs looking for ideas simple enough for them to wrap their teeny weeny minds around. So they invent dumb myths about others out of the bigotry without bothering to listen to what they actually say.

      Looks like that might define you pretty well. 

      People who are actually interested in doing more than doing short-term massaging of their wimpy egos have always been aware that the economic issue with conservation has always been about tragedy of the commons issue – and perverse short-term economic intensives it offers to barbarians.

      In other words almost all crony capitalists who’d have problems finding their arse with their hands if it was more than 3 years in the future.

      • phillip ure 4.3.1

        yep..!

        to the 'tragedy of the commons' take…

        • lprent 4.3.1.1

          Looking at the subtext… I'm an equal opportunity sarcasm generator – you are not the only one… eh!!!! !!! !! !

          😈

          • phillip ure 4.3.1.1.1

            um..!..no..

            i think that as the climate-crisis unfolds we will become more and more aware that capitalists extracting aren't going to stop..

            and that we need to take back control of 'the commons'..

            and the case will be able to be made that we are only taking back what was stolen from us in the first place..

            (not a drop of 'sarcasm' to be seen..)

    • mac1 4.4

      It's really a question not of profit per se because in its very nature profit is a positive, but for whom, over what time frame and how much is sustainable and fair as opposed to exploitation of land, people or resources.

      President Macron spoke of the rich elite, be they individuals or nations. The profit should not be just for them. What system woud entrust our societies very wellbeing to self-absorbed, sociopathic narcissists and followers of Mammon?

      Macron speech – The end of Western hegemony

      http://worldif.economist.com/article/13518/giving-money-everyone

      There is also just a bit more than a little on giving to the poor in the Old and New Testaments which might reinforce these arguments.

  5. soddenleaf 5

    Now why would a farmer do that, production up profits down, how can you look your neighbor in the eye and say your cattle count is lower, your sht is not heading for town and loadsofmoney.

  6. cleangreen 6

    Farming is only one side of the pollution of our waterways folks.

    Try this global study of ‘road runoff’ pollution studies of three countries in three regions Japan, France and the USA.

    I claim this ‘road runoff’ pollution as the ‘Elephant in the room’ so far not considered, folks

    https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es400871j

    Impacts of surface runoff to aquatic species are an ongoing area of concern. Tire and road wear particles (TRWP) are a constituent of runoff, and determining accurate TRWP concentrations in sediment is necessary in order to evaluate the likelihood that these particles present a risk to the aquatic environment.

    Article in Environmental Science & Technology 47(15) · July 2013 
    DOI: 10.1021/es400871j · Source: PubMed
    Cite this publication

    Comparison of Tire and Road Wear Particle Concentrations in Sediment for Watersheds in France, Japan, and the United States by Quantitative Pyrolysis GC/MS Analysis

    Abstract
    Impacts of surface runoff to aquatic species are an ongoing area of concern. Tire and road wear particles (TRWP) are a constituent of runoff, and determining accurate TRWP concentrations in sediment is necessary in order to evaluate the likelihood that these particles present a risk to the aquatic environment. TRWP consist of approximately equal mass fractions of tire tread rubber and road surface mineral encrustations. Sampling was completed in the Seine (France), Chesapeake (U.S.), and Yodo-Lake Biwa (Japan) watersheds to quantify TRWP in the surficial sediment of watersheds characterized by a wide diversity of population densities and land uses. By using a novel quantitative pyrolysis-GC/MS analysis for rubber polymer, we detected TRWP in 97% of the 149 sediment samples collected. The mean concentrations of TRWP were 4500 (n = 49; range = 62-11 600), 910 (n = 50; range = 50-4400) and 770 (n = 50; range = 26-4600) μg/g d.w. for the characterized portions of the Seine, Chesapeake and Yodo-Lake Biwa watersheds, respectively. A subset of samples from the watersheds (n = 45) was pooled to evaluate TRWP metals, grain size and organic carbon correlations by principal components analysis (PCA), which indicated that four components explain 90% of the variance. The PCA components appeared to correspond to (1) metal alloys possibly from brake wear (primarily Cu, Pb, Zn), (2) crustal minerals (primarily Al, V, Fe), (3) metals mediated by microbial immobilization (primarily Co, Mn, Fe with TOC), and (4) TRWP and other particulate deposition (primarily TRWP with grain size and TOC). This study should provide useful information for assessing potential aquatic effects related to tire service life.

  7. Jilly Bee 7

    I caught up with this article in the Waikato Times a little while ago and was wondering how and where to respond to it.  I live in the Waikato area and of course, it is pretty much the center of the dairy industry in N Z, though I notice the rapid increase in crop growing particularly on the Matamata plains through to Te Aroha and surrounding areas – the townies always have a wee winge during (the onion) harvesting season with the dust clouds circling overhead!  My immediate reaction to this piece was exactly as the writer had opined – get on and do it and stop grizzling – here's looking at you Fed Farmers et al. 

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/opinion/115919644/time-to-talk-about-what-we-can-do-not-cant-when-it-comes-to-environmentally-friendly-farming

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