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Trade and the Environment

Greetings Readers

A news item today from Australia warns Aussie farmers that they must begin gathering data on how their farming practices affect the environment, or risk their long term future on the land.

At the South Island Dairy Event (SIDE) at Lincoln University, Anchor Milk South Island field officer Shane Lodge unequivocally stated that Dairy farmers had a social responsibility to protect the environment and uphold New Zealand's clean green image on which dairy products are marketed.

The Aussie Federal Environment minister found it remarkable that information about the impact of farming on Australia's natural environment appeared to be nonexistent at a time when other industries in urban areas were addressing their environmental sustainability.

Is the overall management of the environment in New Zealand any further advanced or are our farming industries still walking a minimalist path particularly in these times of rapid change.

All farmers have experienced some action on their part that they wish had not happened, be it a reluctance to shift the effluent gun or the incorrect disposal of some old sheep dip.

It seems clear that buyers of our products are going to intrude further and further into our farms and their operation if we are going to receive premium prices for our branded products. There is no escaping that burden because that is what branding is all about.

However, the list of issues that the dairy industry needs to address listed at the SIDE includes not only environmental but also animal welfare issues such as tail docking, inductions, penning bobby calves beside the road and leaving dead stock on the roadside for collection. All things generally accepted as common practice by farmers, but now are being questioned by the perceptions of consumers.

Where is the evidence that these are bad practices or better still where is the evidence that our current practices are unacceptable in terms of the sustainable farming? Our industry leaders need to ensure that our marketers understand that the creation of consumer perceptions is a two way street by ensuring that their analysis for change is based on good evidence and understanding of NZ’s farm production systems.

It is clear that environmental and animal welfare issues will be the basis of future non-tariff trade barriers particularly from Europe. Our industries have a responsibility to ensure that the facts and supporting information are available to support good farming rather than bending to the mischief making of countries and competitors looking for an edge over our low-cost farm production systems.

Good farming

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