Farmers welcome details from Budget funding

Farmers have welcomed the just-released details of the Sustainable Land Use package, especially funding to upgrade an on-farm environmental software package.

At the annual Fieldays at Mystery Creek, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor and Prime Minister Jacinda Arden spoke about the focus of the $229 million package, which was released in last month's Budget.

O'Connor said it would see more than 2000 farmers helped with on-the-ground support to lift environmental sustainability and unlock more value for their hard work.

"More than $35 million will go towards providing practical advice, information and tools for farmers and growers to improve their operations on the ground," he said. 

Damien O'Connor said the funding would support farmers to lift environmental sustainability and unlock more value for their hard work.
Damien O'Connor said the funding would support farmers to lift environmental sustainability and unlock more value for their hard work. Photo credit: Newshub

He said it would also see clusters of farmers and growers in different regions across the country gather to share information, insights and advice with like-minded people who understand local issues.

"We want two extension clusters underway by September, with a further rollout in the remainder of 2019 and 2020," said O'Connor.

About $12 million was also committed to support Māori landowners and agribusinesses to get greater value and sustainability from their land, and $5 million was available to enhance primary industry adviser capabilities.

Around $43 million has been committed to upgrade relevant decision support tools, like Overseer, the software programme used to model nutrient cycling on-farm.

"For example, Budget 2019 funding will help to improve the accuracy of Overseer's modelled estimates and boost the range of farm systems and conditions it models."

O'Connor said the funding would go hand in hand with a new regulatory package designed to improve the environmental outcomes of land use.

Federated Farmers welcomed the detail saying it was a positive step, however was keen to see more details of the regulations.

"We appreciate money being spent on the ground at catchment level, because that's where the environmental gains are being made. However, we would need to consider the details of the accompanying regulatory package," said environment spokesperson Chris Allen.

Chris Allen said the funding to upgrade Overseer software was especially welcome.
Chris Allen said the funding to upgrade Overseer software was especially welcome. Photo credit: Supplied

"Especially welcome is news that around $43 million has been committed to upgrade relevant decision support tools, including improving the accuracy of Overseer's modelled estimates and boosting the range of farm systems and conditions it models."

Last year the Parliamentary Commission for the Environment highlighted significant shortcomings with Overseer.

"It's a big problem for farmers when councils are setting limits on a modelled number from Overseer, even though it's commonly acknowledged those numbers can be 25-50 percent off the mark."

"Having a tool fit for purpose for those who have genuine need to demonstrate a water quality outcome has to be a good thing." 

Allen is involved in the talks between Government and industry groups on integrated farm planning, and said he agreed with O'Connor and Ardern that a more streamlined approach for farm planning, incorporating the areas of biosecurity, animal welfare, food safety and health and safety, was worth striving for.

Newshub.

 

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