Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jon Morgan on dirty dairying

The Dominion Post this morning has a piece by farming correspondent Jon Morgan in which he comes out against dirty dairying. Having previously accepted the assurances of farming organisations such as Fonterra and Federated Farmers that dairy farming was being unfairly targeted by "shrill and vindictive" environmentalists, he has now changed his mind. The reason?

It's the science. Tests of the Manawatu River show poor ecosystem health, caused, the scientists say, primarily by dairy runoff. Sure, there's other factors - town sewage pollution is a disgrace and regional councils should be more diligent about curbing it - but the scientific finger is pointing at those cows calmly ruminating in their fields.

That's just one river. Others around the country are also affected, maybe not so badly, but it cannot be a coincidence that the worst are in dairy regions. Hill country farmers don't escape blame, either. Sediment from slips on denuded hills is given as a reason for low native fish populations.

His conclusion? "In sensitive areas... the only alternative may be to reduce cow numbers". Though he also suggests going organic as a way to preserve farm incomes by producing a premium product (in financial terms at least) from a smaller herd.

Its good to see that at least one farm advocate can change their mind based on the evidence. Now, if only Federated Farmers and Fonterra would do the same...