The raft of new and proposed environmental regulations has created significant administrative and financial burden on farmers, according to new research released by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).
The Cumulative impact of Government policy on New Zealand sheep and beef farms by BakerAg quantifies the cumulative effects of the Government’s environmental reform agenda on farms.
“The report reinforces B+LNZ’s calls for the Government – no matter which political party wins the General Election – to press pause on rules, review current or proposed rules to ensure they’re fit for purpose without adding unnecessary costs, and undertake detailed analysis of the cumulative impact of its reform agenda,” says B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor.
B+LNZ Board Chair Kate Acland says farmers acknowledge ongoing investment in environmental improvements is needed in many cases but that investment needs to be targeted at proven actions with measurable impacts.
“Instead, we have a range of one-size-fits all rules that are simply imposing significant cost without clear benefits.”
The report sets out the one-off opportunity and real (direct) costs of central and local government policies and initiatives on four case study farms.
Farmers are facing increasing costs for consents in order to undertake on-farm activities – annual consenting costs across the four farms were as high as $30,000 while one farm faced one-off resource consent costs of $220,000. All four farms faced $15,000 one-off direct costs for Freshwater Farm Plans as well as annual costs for updating and auditing.
While the cost of excluding stock from waterways (primarily fencing costs) will affect fewer farms, these costs will likely be significant. One case study farm in the report was facing potential costs for stock exclusion of over $1.2 million.
It’s important to note the costs highlighted in the report only address the policies already set out or where modelling has been released – there will be significant additional costs to implement freshwater rules and biodiversity initiatives.
“The combination of these rules and the cost of implementation threatens farms’ ongoing financial viability,” says McIvor.
“For example, one case study farm in the report faced one-off direct costs of $75,000 and annual direct costs of around $88,000, when the B+LNZ Sheep & Beef Farm Survey shows us the average Farm Profit Before Tax for that region or type for 2022/23 is $174,800. And this impact is despite the farm’s engaged and proactive environmental stewardship.
Acland says it’s important to take a broad view. “Any single rule on its own may seem small, but if you add them all up, it shows why farmers are so stressed at the moment and so concerned when any further rules are proposed.”
Over the past six years, more than 20 new regulations, laws and reforms have been introduced, or will be in the coming years, by central and local government that directly affect agriculture – primarily in the areas of climate change, freshwater and biodiversity.
“The Government needs to pause, review, reassess and simplify its approach to policies. Policies are all too often fragmented and impractical. A more holistic view is needed to develop sensible and pragmatic regulations that enable farmers’ ongoing stewardship of the land.
“We’ve been working to get the low-slope map for stock exclusion fixed for the last three years, despite the Government’s early acknowledgement that it was flawed. There are many other similar examples.
“The red meat sector plays a vital role in New Zealand’s economic health – it is an important source of income and employment. However, this report shows the detrimental effects these policies are having on a range of farming communities, which will have lasting impacts on the wider economy and society.
“B+LNZ has long been concerned about the impact the Government’s reform agenda is having on sheep and beef farms. It’s time to hit pause.”
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