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Opinion: State-controlled farm plans will set farmers up to fail

Opinion: State-controlled farm plans will set farmers up to fail

The governments approach to farm plans was opposed by some regional councils, but their concerns were ignored.

Our farming groups requested an industry led approach to farm plans working in partnership with farmers, rather than a state controlled one size fits all approach. They too have been ignored.

In the last 12 months government officials have been beavering away behind closed doors but no one seems to know what is going on.

State controlled farm plans are being captured into new legislation that has been widely panned, with our farming advocacy groups (and others) calling it unworkable, needing to be withdrawn and taken back to the drawing board.

Amidst all this farmers are confused about the different farm plan approaches.

The governments mandated farm plan model has major detrimental implications for farmers compared to an industry led approach advocated for by our sector.

A major concern is it will mandate all farmers to have a government prescribed farm plan – regardless of the farming activity, the catchment or region they are in, or the effects of their activity.

This type of unprecedented state control mandate would have never been allowed under previous legislation, but this government has removed the protection ordinary citizens used to have from unrestrained state control.

The government’s model requires a top heavy compliance system with the writer of the farm plan, the certifier and the auditor all having to be different people.

Another major concern is that state controlled farm plans are publicly discoverable, meaning farmers private information would be accessible to the public and environmental lobby groups.

To understand why the government’s model is so bad it is worth reading the Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) submission on farm plans.

Taranaki can rightly feel aggrieved as they have spent 25 years building a voluntary farm plan system with 99% of dairy farmers on board and around 70% of hill country farmers.

When the new law is enacted the TRC are going to have to convert their farm plans to the government system or start from scratch.

A major concern for TRC is that years of building positive working relationships with farmers will be undermined by them being forced to implement the governments model – a model that neither TRC nor the community want.

Groundswell NZ shares the concerns about the government’s model, and we support an industry led approach to farm plans.

Our bottom lines include that farm plans must be empowering, a partnership between the farmer and their farm plan advisor(s), flexible to meet each farmer’s needs and resources, targeted at the key priority environmental issues on each farm and catchment, and owned by the farmer.

Groundswell NZ have called for farmers to refuse to do the government mandated farm plans.

We urge all farmers to support this campaign which would help farming advocates and regional councils lobbying on our behalf for an industry led approach to farm plans.

by Jamie McFadden - Groundswell NZ environmental spokesperson