Monday, May 07, 2018

Too many cows

What a difference an election makes. After nine long years of denial about water-quality problems, the new government has straight-out said that New Zealand has too many cows. Better, it is actually going to do something about it:

The Government could be buying itself a fight with the farming lobby after suggesting there needs to be fewer cows.

Environment Minister David Parker told TVNZ's Q+A programme there would not be a direct cap on the number of cattle but there may be limits on the amount of nutrients lost from a farm into a waterway.

"Cow numbers have already peaked and are going down, but yes, in some areas, the number of cows per hectare is higher than the environment can sustain. That won't be done through a raw cap on cow numbers; it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it's not just a dairy cow issue."

Farmers will kick and scream, but this change can be made without affecting their bottom line (or at a profit if they ditch cows entirely in some regions). All it requires is for them to change what they're doing and how they treat the environment. But that's something that they culturally seem to have a real problem with. And when regional councils have introduced nutrient limits, farmers have fought them all the way. I expect they'll do exactly the same here.