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Less milk, but you'll get a better price for it

Thu, 20 May 2004

Less milk, sure, but you'll get a better price for it

Green MP Ian Ewen-Street says the slightly higher production of conventionally farmed cows compared to an organic herd reported in a current trial is outweighed by the higher price farmers get for organic milk.

Massey University's Dairy Cattle Research Unit near Palmerston North has been comparing the two approaches since 2001 and has this week reported a "small difference in productivity, animal health and soil and herbage quality" in favour of the mainstream approach.

"Conventional farms almost always 'outperform' organic farms, especially if the organic farms are in conversion mode, but only in a productivity sense," said Mr Ewen-Street, the Green Party's Agriculture and Organics Spokesperson.

"The crucial calculation is farm gate returns. A lower productivity with a higher sale price per unit can, and frequently does, give a higher financial return to the farmer. A 10 to 30 per cent premium for certified organic products usually more than offsets the reduction in outright productivity.

"And it is important to recognise that the premium price for organic milk reflects consumers' willingness to pay for a tastier and healthier product.

"But if you look at long-standing organic farms the productivity of an organic herd often does beat the conventional equivalent anyway."

Before entering Parliament Mr Ewen-Street farmed sheep and beef cattle on 500-acre Biogro-certified organic farm in the Marlborough Sounds.


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