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Farmers Need To Face Up To Inflamed, Misleading Rhetoric

Farmers Need To Face Up To Inflamed, Misleading Rhetoric Or NZ Will Suffer

INSIGHTS ABOUT THE NEWS - Agriculture is facing massive political challenges as NZ gears up for a very tight election campaign. Its biggest threat comes from politicians currying electoral favour with policies designed to appeal to urban voters with very little understanding of farming.

Lobby groups like Greenpeace and Forest & Bird with chief executives who are former Green MPs are campaigning strongly on climate change, water pollution and “industrial dairying.” Now they have been joined by Gareth Morgan who along with Labour and the Greens is calling for charges on farmers using water.

As reported in The Main Report Farming Alert, just as “peak oil” was the bogey monster a decade ago, now “peak cows,” and “peak water pollution” are held up as signalling the end of the world is nigh. Those calling for a cap on cow numbers and irrigation curbs are challenging a fundamental plank of the NZ economy: pastoral industries earning the bulk of the export income essential for the lifestyle of all NZers.

What few understand is most leading farmers, particularly in dairying, are already undergoing a paradigm shift in farming practices. Having fenced off waterways, they are now moving to new forms of pasture management to lower nitrogen leaching. They are also listening to authorities who preach the virtues of getting more milk from fewer cows.

This of course does not fit the narrative driven by groups such as Greenpeace. Federated Farmers has accused the lobby of resorting to sensationalist rhetoric. Federated Farmers' water spokesperson Chris Allen says the report "Sick of too many cows” is a misguided attack on the primary sector - the country’s largest exporter and employer of around 160,000 people.

Allen says "this is Greenpeace doing a good job of what they do best - plenty of headlines and hyperbole. Those claims made about health being endangered due to livestock is extreme. What’s particularly disturbing is their accusation irrigation and farming cause cancers and infectious diseases."

The latter-day doomsayers are grabbing the headlines: it’s time for farmers and their lobby groups to fight back.


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