- Date published:
7:10 am, August 12th, 2019 - 47 comments
Categories: Environment, farming, sustainability - Tags: federated farmers, industrial dairy, organics, regenerative agriculture, southland
I grew up in a town, but one side of my family are farmers and I’ve lived in and around rural areas much of my adult life. I’ve seen the changes and like many been appalled at what has happened to so many lowland waterways and landscapes that I know and love. I believe strongly that farming is core to New Zealand: culturally, spiritually and in terms of our ability to survive in a climate change future that is already threatening food supplies.
Because of that I’m more supportive of farmers than some, and see encouragement of the ones wanting to do the right things as part of my politics. New Zealand has good, long term examples of farming with nature in mind, and many more farmers would be doing better land management with a change in support around finance and advice.
I also believe there are farmers who are dangerous and will need to be stopped because there is no telling them. To my mind this isn’t farming, it’s strip mining nature for short term profit. It destroys the land, the soil, fertility and waterways. It’s industrial, for-maximum-profit, export-driven farming that trashes the very environment upon which it, and all of us, depend. In a climate crisis world, this is not about growing food, and this hubris will kill us. It beggars belief that industrial farmers are being allowed to do this. Looking at you regional councils.
So I’m pleased to see that a few weeks ago environmentalist Angus Robson launched a campaign against winter cropping (a practice of letting stock strip graze a winter crop like swedes). This video footage shows why, watch all 3 minutes to see the scope of what is going on,
While I have some degree of acceptance of farmers needing time to change practice, what I see in the video is wilful ignorance and it sets my sustainability heart and brain on fire. Industrial dairying is not necessary, it’s been going on far too long, and it’s the epitome of greed farming. I don’t know who farms the land in the video, and I’m glad I don’t because it allows me to say some sharp-tongued things.
I saw the footage when RNZ first put it up and had such a visceral reaction of shock I couldn’t read the story. Around the same time, farmers I follow on twitter were talking reasonably about the need to transition off winter cropping where it was causing problems, because common sense. Meanwhile, Federated Farmers have been going blah, blah, blah, the usual bullshit about them being the real victims here, with the blatant subtexts of: we will do what we want, and, we will change as slowly as we need to in order to keep making money from the industry because that is what is important.
Yesterday The Southland Times online reported that some farmers near Mossburn had objected to the conditions on their farms and stock being photographed, and seemed to think they could stop that,
Two environmentalists spent their Sunday holed up in a house in Northern Southland, while farmers held a barbecue at the end of their driveway, as a stoush over winter grazing in Southland escalated at the weekend.
One farmer told Stuff they set out to stop more photographs of stock being taken and the environmentalists were welcome to come out and talk them.
Police were at the Mossburn property on Sunday morning amid allegations of vehicles being rammed, intimidation and trespassing, but no charges have been laid.
It’s unclear if the farmers were blocking the drive or not, and police appear to not be doing their job properly. Former Southland Federated Farmers president Allan Baird was there going blah, blah, blah, we’re the real victims here, and you’re destroying our livelihood and the local economy. Allan Baird appears to think it’s ok to pour cow shit into rivers and has been convicted and fined for it.
I’ll hazard a guess that some of the Mossburn farmers would be doing the right thing if they weren’t being so badly served by their industry reps. Southland didn’t used to be full of industrial dairying, someone taught the farmers how to do that. Imagine how things would change if Fed Farmers went ecological.
It’s not like any of this is new. Problems with industrial dairying have been obvious in Southland for decades. I think time is up.
Here’s what we could be doing instead. This seven minute video showcases a Hawke’s Bay sheep and cattle farm that is using regenerative agriculture to produce food, restore the land, protect biodiversity and sequester carbon. If we want to talk about how to grow food, this is one way to do it that doesn’t fuck the planet.
It’s not perfect, and farmers intent on high stocking rates and maximum profit won’t be able to do this, but the benefits inherent in regenag are broader, more stable and more resilient than much of what we see in Southland currently. The choices are there.
Want a Southland example? Mangapiri Downs in Western Southland has been an organic stud sheep, cattle and forestry farm for thirty years. This is what our landscapes could be like,
Post updated 10am.