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Green Project Farmers Deliver Results despite Knock Back

The group of farmers, who, despite staunch opposition last year, continued working towards a set of voluntary New Zealand standards for sustainable farming, will deliver their results next week.

At a series of field days in Wanganui, Hawke’s Bay and Te Kuiti, the group will put forward a practical and voluntary management tool to protect the future of farming and New Zealand’s clean and green image.

The group’s leader Rod Pearce says this tool, which they have tried and tested, is capable of being the framework for a set of robust voluntary standards for sustainable farming in New Zealand.

“It builds on existing farm assurance programmes, addressing food safety and animal welfare, to a level that we, and technical support agencies believe will satisfy any international market place requirement.

“As a management tool it is a solid, realistic and achievable platform for other farmers to adopt, covering Livestock, Land and Environment and Social Responsibility in New Zealand”.

The group started the Green Project three years ago to show the international marketplace, that New Zealand farmers are at the forefront of product integrity.

The UK, Australia, Europe and other countries have similar initiatives, some of which are farmer led and others are driven by Government and industry, which focus on the need to restore consumer confidence following numerous food safety scares.

This has also led to a move, in Europe, that the World Trade Organisation insists on Quality Assurance Schemes being placed on the agenda for the next round of trade negotiations in Cancun (Mexico).

However, last year New Zealand Federated Farmers Meat and Wool section and Fonterra publicly rejected Green Project’s work as “unnecessary” and “bureaucratic” although two of the Federation’s regional chairman had tested and fully supported the programme.

Despite the resistance, Green Project’s farmers unanimously agreed to continue because they believed sustainability is an attribute that can add value to New Zealand meat exports, in terms of continued access, or preferential access to markets with higher market returns.

“We have taken an active approach towards establishing a set of voluntary standards which show New Zealand farmers are prepared to lead – rather than face the threat of someone else placing standards on them which are not so practical or workable.

“Our work is underpinned with three management plans which document and reinforce what many New Zealand farmers are already working towards – managing their farms as well as they can while preserving their land and looking after their livestock.

“Our experience will show sustainable farming is about re-directing existing resources and does not require a high level of extra financial costs,” he says.

Green Project’s 50 farmers represent a cross section of farming and properties throughout the North Island including, sheep, cattle, dairy and deer. All the farmers involved volunteered to be part of the programme and did not receive any payment for their involvement. The farmers supply a range of meat companies.

Green Project is farmer led, facilitated by farmers for farmers. It received support from the Sustainable Farming Fund, as well as from the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development and New Zealand meat companies.

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