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Landcorp and Govt should help struggling farmers

15 May 2008

Landcorp and Government should help struggling sheep farmers

Green Party MP Nandor Tanczos calls on Landcorp to support New Zealand sheep farmers by trialling organic sheep farming methods rather than leading the shift to dairy conversion.

In addition, the Green Party says liability under the emissions trading scheme should be based on 1990 emissions, as in the Kyoto protocol. Sheep and beef herds have fallen below 1990 levels so this change would see them face no additional cost unless they grow their emissions substantially. Under the Government's current proposal to use an arbitrary 2005 base level, sheep and beef farmers will subsidise dairy expansion.

"Landcorp, as New Zealand's largest farmer, has an obligation to help farmers convert to organics, just as it has historically supported conventional farming development," Nandor says.

"Organic sheep farming provides a golden opportunity. Premium prices are paid for organic sheep meat and wool and there's an insatiable international demand.

"If conversion to organics makes sheep farming more viable it will have two major benefits. It would slow the conversion of sheep farms to dairy farms or dairy support, and would also benefit those sheep farmers unable to convert to dairying."

The wholesale conversion to dairy farming across the country is one of New Zealand's biggest environmental challenges, both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and water extraction and contamination. In addition intensive dairy farming raises further animal welfare issues.

"It's vital that Landcorp trials organic land conversions on its own farms, using its expertise in genetics to build organic herds, and sharing its on-the-ground experience to inform other farmers and show them the way forward." Nandor says.

"Leading the way in the shift to organic farming methods could open up a new era of sustainability and prosperity for New Zealand sheep farmers. A much brighter future than the current situation of meatworks closures would suggest."


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