Proposed changes to winter grazing regulations released by Government today appear to be a sensible step forward, but DairyNZ will review the fine print to help deliver rules that work on-farm.
DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said when these regulations were introduced last year, DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb and Federated Farmers made it clear they were impractical for farmers. Recommended changes were made together, as part of the Southland Advisory Group.
“We are pleased the Government heard us and will be consulting on significant changes as a result. From what we’ve seen, the confirmation of certified freshwater farm plans as an alternative regulatory pathway to meet the intensive winter grazing rules is good news,” said Dr Mackle. “This will see better outcomes for the environment and farmers.
“There also appears to be positive changes to pugging, resowing and critical source area rules, based on primary sector feedback, but we need more detail to understand how these changes might work in practice.
“It’s also good to see the proposed resowing date shift to ‘as soon as practicable’. This makes it possible for farmers to establish their crops well, in line with weather and managing environmental risk.
“Farmers are proactively putting in place good practice for winter grazing and it’s vital the new regulations are practical, so good work continues.”
Under the proposal, farmers will have three regulatory pathways – including a permitted activity via a freshwater farm plan. “Ultimate success here does depend on a robust certified freshwater farm plan process; this is yet to be landed,” said Dr Mackle.
“The phasing in of freshwater farm plans will lead to a delay in this pathway being available for farmers – this is a concern for practical and flexible implementation of the regulations and we need this remedied.”
The potential deferral of the wintering regulations to November 2022 will provide time for detail to be worked out and enables farmers to continue their plans for next season, said Dr Mackle.
DairyNZ will complete a submission on both the winter grazing and the freshwater farm plan consultations, providing firm feedback to Government. DairyNZ is also supporting farmers to make submissions on both consultations.
While there has been a two-week extension in light of Covid-19 lockdown, DairyNZ remains very concerned about the broader pace and scale of regulatory change facing farmers and the schedule of reforms underway.
“We want farmers and industry representatives to have time to provide robust feedback during the many Government consultation processes underway, so regulations are practical behind the farm gate and achieve the desired outcomes,” said Dr Mackle.
“We know regulatory change is having an impact on farmer wellbeing. The policies coming through government departments must be prioritised, phased and better managed as a collective.”
Consultation on the proposed intensive winter grazing amendments is open until 7 October.