Reply to Jon Morgan

A reality check for Jon Morgan in response to his editorial “Dairy farmers unfairly cop the blame over water quality

I’m not sure how factual events, like the Selwyn River being declared unsafe to swim in, or DairyNZ not having a complaint against Greenpeace upheld, represent “unfair attacks on dairy farming”. They are simply reality.

It’s a shame that Mr Morgan has tried to derail the discussion by interpreting any criticism of the impacts of the dairy industry as a personal attack on “dairying families”. No industry should be above criticism, and while I don’t believe it’s fair to attack all farmers, we have to be able to have these conversations if farming is to retain its “social license” to operate. The dairy industry (especially its commentators, leaders and industry bodies) ignore public perception at their peril. Continue reading “Reply to Jon Morgan”

Media: Dairy farming needs a clear vision for the future

First published: Farmers Weekly 13 April 2015

The government’s Business Growth Agenda demands we double food exports (mainly dairy) by 2025. Even if we could do that with the current state of the art, where would we put the millions of additional cows required? Which rivers and lakes should we sacrifice? Which rural communities will shoulder the crippling debt of dairy conversions? Growth for it’s own sake is the methodology of the cancer cell. That cannot be our future.

The message that’s missing is a clear vision of our sustainable agricultural future. An agricultural sector that progressively decouples itself from volatile commodity prices; that rewards farmers with greater value-add income, not just ever increasing costs in a race to the bottom; and that is truly environmentally sustainable. The only winning future for our dairy industry is one that acknowledges our limits, then makes the best of working within them.

Can we embrace the maths of sustainable farming?

(First published on The Farming Show June 2012)

A maths lesson might seem an odd way to start a column on sustainable farming, but bear with me for a second.

We’re all familiar with the idea of exponential growth: it’s the function that drives compound interest, economic growth and population size. Those hockey-stick graphs that shoot upwards ever steeper are just the exponential function on paper.

Any system that repeats percentage growth qualifies as exponential. It doesn’t stop for a breather: it’s a percentage increase year on year that uses the previous year’s total in its calculation for the next.

In farming and food production terms, we all know that we’ll face the global problem of infinite growth on a finite planet eventually, as we hit the ceiling of food production and input resources.

Continue reading “Can we embrace the maths of sustainable farming?”