Overseer to get revamp, farmers to benefit from budget projects
By Rebecca Howard
June 12 (BusinessDesk) - Up to 2,200 farmers will get on-the-ground support through the $229.2 million Sustainable Land Use budget package and support tools - like Overseer - will be upgraded.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern outlined the details of the package on the first day of the Fieldays agricultural expo in Mystery Creek.
The Sustainable Land Use package was billed in Budget 2019 as an investment that will "protect and restore at-risk waterways and wetlands and provides support for farmers and growers to use their land more sustainably."
In the budget, however, $122.2 million of that was earmarked for on-the-ground advice to farmers; supporting Maori agribusiness; information, tools and advice to support farmers changing to more environmentally sustainable and higher value production; improving on-farm emissions data and upgrading decision and regulatory tools; and protecting high-value food exports and updating our official assurances system.
Today, O'Connor said more than $35 million will go towards providing practical help for farmers and growers to improve their operations on the ground.
“An important part of this is about extension - pulling together clusters of farmers and growers in different regions across the country, to share information, insights and advice with like-minded people who understand local issues," he said. The aim is to have two "extension clusters" underway by September and more in the remainder of 2019 and 2020.
O'Connor said about $12 million was committed to support Maori landowners and agribusinesses to get greater value and sustainability from their land, and $5 million was available to enhance primary industry advisor capabilities.
Around $43 million has been committed to upgrade relevant decision support tools, like the Overseer farm management tool. For example, Budget 2019 funding will help to improve the accuracy of Overseer’s modelled estimates and boost the range of farm systems and conditions it models, he said.
Overseer is used by farmers to help calculate their nutrient loss and has been adopted by local authorities to maintain and regulate freshwater quality. However, it has come under fire for being under-funded from the outset.
“We want to develop a more streamlined approach for farm planning, incorporating the areas of biosecurity, animal welfare, food safety and health and safety,” O'Connor said.