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Farm environment awards the way of the future

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Farm environment awards the way of the future

For immediate release: Friday 24 November 2006

New Zealand farmers must pick up the challenge to farm more sustainably so they can promote themselves to global customers as “the finest in the world”.

The Ballance Farm Environment Awards, which have just closed for entries in the Bay of Plenty, support and encourage the use of sustainable farming practices. However, while some people are doing great work, the industry in general is not moving forward fast enough, says John Bourke, chairman of the regional awards trust.

For example, a suggestion for a 10% annual improvement in the amount of nutrient lost from dairy farms “does not go far enough”, Mr Bourke says. “I’m sure that with a sound nutrient management policy and scientific help from fertiliser advisors, farmers can do much better than that.”

Mr Bourke urges land-based businesses to create positive policies and “lead the agenda” so they do not receive negative criticism from global customers and the consumers of export produce. “Adverse publicity reacts extremely rapidly, as demonstrated by the food miles exposure,” Mr Bourke says.

The Ballance Farm Environment awards encourage sustainability of land-based businesses. Sustainability includes profitability, good stock health, protection of waterways by fencing off water sources and preventing stock crossing through water. Other factors taken into account are the management of erosion prone land, shelter for stock from sun and wind, and community or district involvement.”

Awards are a good way for people to learn how to improve farming practices. “You learn from your peers, which is easy and painless. It’s a very positive experience.”

Now in their fifth year, the regional awards received 13 entries this year. They will be assessed over the next three months, with an awards ceremony in April. Assessment coordinator Ian Pirani would like to have seen more entrants. “What seems to be happening is that people think we are looking for perfection. They don’t want to enter until they have everything right. But that’s not the case. These awards are about the journey – about people trying to do better.”

Environment Bay of Plenty coordinates the awards in the Bay of Plenty. Regional council chairman John Cronin says the regional council totally endorses the awards programme. It has pledged its support for the next decade in its Ten Year Plan. “We wholeheartedly support the efforts of the farming community to farm more sustainably.”

The awards, which showcase the work of farmers and orchardists, are now run in eight regions of New Zealand. They are supported by principal sponsor Ballance Agri-Nutrients, along with Livestock Improvement, PPCS, PPG Wrightson, Gallagher and Hill Laboratories. Environment Bay of Plenty is the regional partner. Environment Bay of Plenty’s Sheree Phillips, who has coordinated the awards since the beginning, will be handing the job over to colleague Heidi Wana this year.


ENDS

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