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Tom Belford15 September 2020

Leave it to the Greens to shake up a much needed policy debate!

Their Farming for the Future campaign manifesto should relegate the ‘green school’ incident into a minor footnote in this year’s election.

Finally, a political party has thrown some challenging ideas into the debate over NZ’s agri-future.

Probably ‘too radical’ for some, but not mis-guided if one believes NZ’s future farming success depends upon producing and exporting premium food products that are safe, natural, and environmentally enhancing. Food produced any other way will soon be unwanted and non-competitive — both abroad, where most of our production goes, and at home.

So ‘too radical’ might be ‘too fast’, but it’s not ‘ungrounded’.

Here are the features that will surely rally Fed Farmers members to pay their dues and cling as long as they can to the past …

  • A 2 cents per kilogram levy on the sale of nitrogen & phosphorous fertilisers.
  • A nationwide limit on Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen (DIN) in waterways of 1mg per litre (HB has this limit now for the Tuki catchment).
  • Progressively reduce the limits on nitrogen fertiliser application per hectare.
  • Ban import of feed supplement PKE.
  • Introduce a water pricing scheme for commercial water users.
  • Create a national sustainability accreditation framework for food production in Aotearoa (Ireland’s Origin Green has more than 53,000 members at farm level, and make no mistake, NZ is chasing the same overseas consumers).
  • Work with departments, District Health Boards, and other government agencies to increase their purchasing of locally grown food, fibre, and timber. 
  • Extend mandatory country of origin labelling to all food products.
  • Ban the live export of livestock animals for breeding.
  • Give the One Billion Trees programme a much stronger focus on indigenous trees and resilient forest ecosystems, and encourage native agroforestry and on-farm planting on marginal land .
  • Introduce on-farm emissions pricing, and a phase-out schedule for ‘free allocations’ to farming, putting the sector on the same track as other industries.
  • Ensure that agricultural greenhouse gas emissions pricing recognises for the value of smaller scale, on-farm forestry. 

That’s a lot to swallow in one dose. But these proposals do reflect the direction NZ — including Hawke’s Bay — needs to be pointed. It’s just a matter of time.

Indeed, the least radical proposal in the Greens plan is their strong support for so-called ‘regenerative farming’ practices, which basically amount to farming with nature rather than against it, yielding healthier soils, food, animals and bottom-lines. More and more NZ farmers are embracing these common sense practices and reaping the benefits.

This makes regen farming safe enough for even Labour to embrace, at least with rhetoric!

More on regen farming here and here.

And here’s Farming for the Future.

 

Tom Belford15 September 2020

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