OPINION: Farmer bashing by ignorant activists can be forgiven as many of them obviously do not know what they are talking about and where food comes from.
But when I hear farmers bashing other farmers then I worry.
There is a real danger of this from environmental initiatives such Healthy Rivers Plan for Change, which pitted farmer against farmer due to its proposed nitrogen grandparenting rules.
Grandparenting is a system that bases nitrogen allocations on their existing usage.
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They seemingly allowed high nitrogen leachers (some dairy farmers) to continue unabated while low leachers (probably dry stock) are being limited which does seem unfair.
Some dairy farmers argue they had fenced off all their waterways on their flat property and what is stopping drystock farmers from fencing off their steep hill country farms?
I think farmers who find themselves contemplating these sorts of arguments should try their best to rise above them and focus on the end result. These are low impact farming practices and cleaner water and we should show a united front against a burgeoning bureaucracy when it seems to have appropriated real life practical solutions.
I also hear people on small farms complaining about larger or multiple farm businesses being greedy and the root of all problems.
In reality, farming, and dairy farming particularly, is cool because no two farms are alike and no two farmers are alike. You might be quite happy pottering around with a small herd on a family farm doing it yourself, or you might be driven to own 2000 cows and leverage your equity further and further.
There is no right and wrong, just different strokes for different folks.
As far as the dairy industry is concerned if it wasn’t for the ‘big guys’ who pump out millions of kilograms of milk solids, through big rotary sheds staffed sometimes by immigrant labour, capitalising on the economies of scale, the small guy – me – would not be able to exist.
I often contemplate the sense of Fonterra’s tanker coming all the way from Kauri in Whangarei to pick up my measly 2000 litres, but I know the tanker is on the way round to Sandhills Road where larger Landcorp farms have many thousands of litres awaiting collection.
If it weren’t for the big guys we wouldn’t have the volume that Fonterra is criticised for making into export commodity milk powder, we wouldn’t have the infrastructure to collect and distribute such as road, rail, ports and processing factories, that would never have been built to process milk from 200 cows on a lease block in Ahipara.
It is similar to the argument around palm kernel. Fonterra is telling us that if more than three kilograms of palm kernel is fed daily per cow, it can have a negative impact on some milk products.
I personally boycotted palm kernel about seven years ago on behalf of my cousins the orangutan, so it would be easy to be holier than thou about it.
But in the middle of a Northland drought when farms become Starvation Gulch overnight, palm kernel was probably the only thing keeping the Fonterra Kauri factory open.
So if I catch myself looking over critically over the fence at my fellow farmers, I will try and rationalise it because there are more threats against farmers in New Zealand than ever before and fighting among ourselves will serve no one well.