Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search


Kiwi Farmer Promotes Sustainability at Conference

Media Release

Kiwi Farmer Promotes Sustainability at International Conference

A trip to Europe gave environmental award winning farmer John Aspinall the opportunity to learn about sustainability issues facing his counterparts in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Otago high country farmer and his wife Sue travelled to Europe to attend and address the World Hereford Conference in Denmark in late June.

The Aspinalls were supreme winners of the Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards in 2006 and their trip to Europe was facilitated by the New Zealand Farm Environment Awards Trust (NZFEAT).

NZFEAT general manager David Natzke says the Trust was honoured to receive an invitation to address the conference. This invitation was forwarded to John Aspinall and 2006 Northland supreme winner Alec Jack.

Unfortunately Alec could not attend but he added input to John’s presentation which outlined the sustainability challenges facing New Zealand agriculture and discussed some of the measures NZ farmers were taking to address these issues.

The address was well received by the international audience and John and Sue were able to take part in conference tours that took them to farms in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

They were keen to learn about the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy – the main focus of which is to maintain the sustainability of food production in Europe. John says this policy is very complicated, highly bureaucratic and interwoven with a multitude of schemes and subsidies designed to regulate food production and keep people in rural areas. For example, farmers in Southern Finland were able to attract a greater subsidy by selling their cattle as weaners to farmers in Northern Finland.

However, while European farmers typically derived 30-50% of their income from subsidies, John says most were resigned to the fact that subsidies would be gradually phased out. So they were interested to hear how New Zealand farmers coped without subsidies.

He says one of the biggest sustainability issues facing European farmers is the lack of scale. “The average farm size is 37ha and most of the farmers we visited also worked off-farm”.

Some were addressing the scale issue by using subsidy income to buy more land, with the aim of making their operation more sustainable once subsidies come off.

In the meantime, European consumers have been enjoying the price savings offered by more efficient food production and increased competition among the supermarkets. John says a speaker at the conference said this had resulted in the average household income spend on food dropping from 35% in pre World War II days down to 9%.

“Food prices are starting to rise globally, but people are still paying less in real terms than they did 40 years ago.”

John says it was also interesting to note that the European farmer’s share of the food retail price had fallen from 40% in 1960 to just 15% in 2008.

He said many of the farmers he talked to were interested to hear about the land access issue in New Zealand and “they were surprised to hear that we have 80,000 people coming across our farm every year’.

As well as visiting farms, the conference tour visited museums, research facilities and local attractions. The Aspinalls also travelled to Scotland and attended the Edinburgh Show.

“All the farmers we visited were extremely hospitable and welcoming and the whole trip was a great opportunity to learn about European farming. While they do things differently to us, it was still interesting to discover that they also face many of the same challenges we do.”


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Back Again: Government Approves TPP11 Mandate

Trade Minister Todd McClay says New Zealand will be pushing for the minimal number of changes possible to the original TPP agreement, something that the remaining TPP11 countries have agreed on. More>>


By May 2018: Wider, Earlier Microbead Ban

The sale and manufacture of wash-off products containing plastic microbeads will be banned in New Zealand earlier than previously expected, Associate Environment Minister Scott Simpson announced today. More>>


Snail-ier Mail: NZ Post To Ditch FastPost

New Zealand Post customers will see a change to how they can send priority mail from 1 January 2018. The FastPost service will no longer be available from this date. More>>


Property Institute: English Backs Of Debt To Income Plan

Property Institute of New Zealand Chief Executive Ashley Church is applauding today’s decision, by Prime Minister Bill English, to take Debt-to-income ratios off the table as a tool available to the Reserve Bank. More>>


Divesting: NZ Super Fund Shifts Passive Equities To Low-Carbon

The NZ$35 billion NZ Super Fund’s NZ$14 billion global passive equity portfolio, 40% of the overall Fund, is now low-carbon, the Guardians of New Zealand Superannuation announced today. More>>