Factory farming reprieve

Some fantastic news late last night – the companies applying to start factory-style dairy farms in the Mackenzie Country have shelved their effluent consent applications, citing costs.

This is a real victory for the Greens, the environmental movement, and everyone who’s spoken up in opposition to the proposals since we revealed them in December. More than 4,000 people made submissions against the proposals, and a facebook group against them has more than 27,000 members.

However, as Russel has pointed out this morning in this press release, the battle is not over yet. The iconic Mackenzie Country landscape is still at threat from applications to take water for irrigation in the upper Waitaki, and the applicants are saying they may reapply for the effluent consents in future.

Environment Minister Nick Smith had some lovely green rhetoric on Morning Report this morning – he should follow it with a National Policy Statement on the Mackenzie that actually protects it in future!

27 Comments Posted

  1. Skinman
    Posted March 19, 2010 at 1:10 PM

    Thanks for that Skinman.

    ‘home’ indeed. Why do these Feds use these weasel words to cover up animal abuse?

    Someone needs to do a National/Act public agenda/hidden agenda cartoon.

    In the first one the dairy cow will be sitting in her wee chair by the fire, with little bootees and a knitted bonnet and scarf, a mug of hot milk beside her and reading her book ‘I’m sure we could come up with an appropriate title!…’

    The second cartoon shows an alley out back of the dear wee home, where the cow that lived there before, now ‘cow’ers in a cold corner of a huge uncaring sterile barn, trying to avoid being trapped in THE CAGE.

    Word has it that cows prefer the outdoors, not the human indoors.

    I don’t blame them. Who would trust humans? Ask Key, who has gone back on all his promises and used the fact that trusting NZers voted for him to ram through everything saying the people had given him a mandate.

    The newborn calves are fine with covers for a few days. Don’t force cows into areas where they wouldn’t normally be, especially iconic country. Simple.

    I might never get to see that part of New Zealand, or visit the pristine Antarctic, but it doesn’t mean I want it ruined by unscrupulous individuals. I daresay plans are underway once more to seek resource approval to erect canopy walkways over our pristine Southernmost forest, just for greed. Trampers who put in the hard yards to reach these place should be able to enjoy natural habitats. These places shouldn’t be easy to reach. That’s what makes them perfect. Protect these regions. This country is unique. Why are people so intent on making it as ordinary as all other countries?

  2. Drakula wrote: “For over 40 years Cuba has been self sufficient in the face of US. trade embargo’s and the collapse of Stalinist (not communist) USSR.”

    I think they’ve actually been self-sufficient for about 15 years, since they adapted to the loss of their relationship with the USSR. And yes their achievements are impressive, but they’re still pretty poor and don’t have much political freedom. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say they should develop a Fonterra-type setup for their sugar industry, to help get a bit more money.

  3. Fonterra to devote one million dollars toward yearly farm inspections to sort out dirty dairying once and for all!

    Meanwhile, a sticking plaster is to be used to bind the techtonic plates that meet under the Southern Alps, to solve New Zealand’s earthquake issue.

  4. Mainstream (dirty stream) dairying needs regulation from a Government that believes in the environment for reasons other than economic ones. We don’t have such a Government, so that won’t happen. The ‘governing body’ for the dairy industry, Fonterra, are no better and have in fact delayed any real progress, with their faux promises of ‘cracking down on polluters’. Farmers themselves, are the worst. It’s them or their peers who are ruining the rivers and the actions they are taking to remedy the situation are too slow and too weak to fix the problem. They’ll trail the problem forever and the problem will continue to grow. There are no new rivers, yet the number of cows continues to grow, seemingly endlessly.
    Never the less, I like your ‘star’ system. It’s a positive suggestion.
    Re the accreditation systems – I’m meaning that one should flow into the other. Conventional farmers probably don’t regard organic or biodynamic as a step above, yet that is the case.

  5. No I didn’t say that they aren’t a step up the ladder. It’s just that those accreditation systems are already in place. What’s needed is a system for the mainstream dairy industry. They can cross pollinate, but can be independent as well.

  6. samiam – you don’t count ‘going organic’ as a step up the ladder from conventional farming? Nor ‘going biodynamic’?
    Why ever not? Both systems are vast improvements in terms of environmental care and management and involve far more than simply planting out a strip of ground alongside of the waterways.
    The rejection of the use of soluable, fossil fuel-based urea fertilizer for starters, is a huge improvement on anything conventional farmers can offer.
    Give them both a gold star, I say, then add further incentives!

  7. Greenfly, I’d keep organic etc out of the accreditation, because there is already an accreditation system(s) up for them.
    A question… does the bio-gro (or other) systems take into account riparian planting and wastewater treatment etc, or does it confine itself to the farming system/methodology?

  8. Accreditation identifies and gives mana to those who make the effort. Have you raised kids? Rewarding good behavior is widely recognized as the best strategy to affect positive change in their attitude.
    What we want is positive change. Ending up like Cuba isn’t exactly my ideal.

  9. KATIE I agree you have said it all.

    I am just wondering whether the acreditisation system is just tinkering with the system.

    We could be looking for other paradims I would suggest Cuba.

    For over 40 years Cuba has been self sufficient in the face of US. trade embargo’s and the collapse of Stalinist (not communist) USSR.

    Other countries in Latin America are following suite Venezuella and Bolivia.

    Check out the Green Left site Australia!!!!

  10. katie – just finished watching Food Inc .

    Felt mainly for the seed cleaner getting cleaned-out.
    Storing that away.

  11. The only reason that Queen St farmers (ok, and a Tauranga farmer) like the idea of feedlot dairy farming is that they have seen the profits that US cattlemen make from this style of farming; oh, and of course, americans are interested in investing in this type of farming here, because they have so degraded their land at home that they must look elsewhere for territory to continue acruing their profits.

    The documentary Food, Inc showed some incredible scenes of cattle in indescribably filthy conditions in Texan feedlot farms; discovering later in the story that american beef at the supermarket or fast-food restaurant has been tested to be heavily contaminated with bacteria did not surprise me at all.

    Why would we want to import this kind of crazy, damaging behaviour to our reasonably healthy herds? The amercian food production paradigm is falling apart at the seams, having destroyed farming families, swathes of land, and now it appears, the production paradigm itself – input costs are so high that food must be produced offshore in order for fertile land to be found for production.

    We copy a failed paradigm at our peril; it is time for the world to wake up and recognise that the US market emperor has no clothes, and cannot lead the market any more.

  12. Convert to organic production?
    Grow plants for food, rather than beasts for slaughter?

  13. Gold would require someone to do something special, beyond just compliance and ticking the boxes. They would need to give something back to the environment/community, and I’m not talking cowshit either!
    You can prescribe the hoops to jump through to get to silver, but to get gold the farmer would need to be creative, go beyond and come up with something.
    Some examples…
    Wetland development.
    Amenity planting.
    Bike/horse trails.
    It all ties in nicely with 100% pure as a goal to aspire to.
    Anyone else got any ideas?

  14. The idea that these companies abandoned the fight because of the cost of consenting is absolute bullsh*t.
    Don’t be fooled.

    Samiam – what do you think a ‘gold rated’ farm would be like?

    Would there be anything growing, other than pasture grasses?
    Will there be any creatures, other than cows and a few farm dogs?

    I despair at that the ‘gold standard’ is set so low .

  15. Actually I think the ‘good’ dairy farmers would embrace displaying their status at the gate. By the way I too would be basing the accreditation on far more than just water quality. Animal welfare, energy efficiency, nutrient management, carbon emissions are all factors that would work towards a Gold rating. I’m sure there are more and within each there would be levels of achievement.
    Farms that have done the hard yards deserve accolades, as it stand only the scumbags get recognition.

  16. The owners of the companies propossing the farms have a good point that the cost of millions of dollars to go through the consent process is absolutely rediculous.

    The absurd cost need to be looked at.

    On the other side of the equation, the massive cost makes the decision to go ahead with the consent stunningly stupid.

    When local farmers (including local heads of Federated Farmers) were saying the idea should be a non-starter, combined with the groundswell of opinion against it, it should have been obvious that throwing money at the consent process would be money down the drain.

  17. It was samiam’s good idea SPC and yours builds on it cleverly.

    Clearly, these are excellent ideas and consequently they will be hastily buried, should Federated Farmers catch a whiff of them.
    You are right that ‘we’ should do these things, but who are ‘we’ to demand such environmentally sound practices.
    Never the less, let’s broadcast the proposals as widely as possible. The general public would be pleased to hear that something substantial is being considered behind the scenes.

  18. greenfly – was it samiam who proposed giving farms ratings for their environment status (based on their compying with the clean waterways accord). We could go further and rate land by its suitability for dairy farming and then the farm for its animal safety practice.

    1. Thus first a rating for the land and its suitability for farming.

    2. A rating for its clean waterway compliance.

    3. A rating for the farms animal safety/well-being.

    Ultimately this might impact on the guarantees to local and foreign consumers about the quality control systems that applied to the product.

  19. Twisting yourself into a wee knot there, jh!

    SPC – an issue here is cow comfort. Those supporting herd homes and cow cubicles will say that cows in areas where the weather can be harsh are better off under cover. That sounds very reasonable to the public, who don’t want to see cows suffering in an exposed paddock. Nor do we, however, farmers who choose to run cows in such areas should be taken to task for doing so. The use of land in areas prone to snow, cold winds etc. should be the focus of investigation, rather than the rights or wrongs of building homes for them, despite the back-scratching devices that always feature on the tv clips. The removal of shelter in regions like Southland, where the shelter belts have been pulled out to maximise the amount of grass that can be grown is a crime.
    I believe the animals should be matched to the landscape and where that can’t be done without resorting to hotel construction, don’t run cows. That includes fragile-soil landscapes, wetlands, thin, dry-soil landscapes like the McKenzie Country and anywhere near a waterway 🙂
    To many cows, too much greed.

  20. Are there not two issues – whether this is the right area for dairy farming and factory farming itself.

    Does factory farming occur in other areas – and in what concentrations?

  21. The number of cows proposed would produce as much effluent as 250000 people, but as you have no objection to mass migration, how do you think people will earn export dollars; macramé making??

  22. I heartily agree Skinman. As readers of earlier threads will know, Lachlan McKenzie and Don Nicolson have consistently attempted to mislead people about intensity and to blur the massive distinctions between the indoor factory farming proposed and herd homes. What I absolutely don’t get is why they have gone so far out of their way to support these applications. There’s no need for them to do so, and I’m sure it must be losing them members – I talk to a lot of farmers, and most certainly seem to be strongly opposed to the McKenzie applications, both for environmental/animal welfare reasons or the sheer economic good sense of not damaging our trading brand.

    By the way, anyone else catch Nick Smith on Morning Report, in an otherwise pretty god contribution, saying that we had a “blue-green government”? If only I were younger I’m sure I would write LOL or even ROFL!

    What criteria might we use to check out that claim? Since we’re on dairying, how about the fact that the Government still supports a voluntary code of practice for disposal of dairy effluent, despite the very strong (and undisputed) evidence that freshwater quality has continued to decline despite the voluntary code and that now increasing numbers of farmers are completely failing to comply with it? Sounds blue-brown to me.

  23. What is up with Fed Farmers? They must think we’re stupid. In the Herald article about this Lachlan MacKenzie said “the average stocking rate in NZ is 2.5 cows per hectare, the same as these applications, so they can’t be called ‘intensive’. What a drop-kick he is. He knows that 2.5 cows per hectare IS intensive stocking on poor land like the MacKenzie country. He also talks about ‘putting cows in a home for a period of time’. That period of time is 24 hours a day, 8 months of the year.

  24. The Resource Management process will get the blame and that will be used as ammunition when that gets the bullet – won’t be long now.

  25. I think congrats to all those who made submissions, no doubt added to the ease of this decision…

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