Here, in NZ Herald, Malcolm Lumsden who has been an Ohinewai dairy farmer for 54 years and Regional Council Chairman of the Lower Waikato Catchment Advisory Committee for the past 15 years, spilled his guts in a torrent of words.... maybe it's all a joke... don't take it too literally... don't even take it literally... but many a true (for the teller) word is spoken in jest. I respond in red...
"Recently while I was in a shop doing business, a very self-righteous lady loudly pronounced that I was one of those irresponsible farmers who allowed their cows to "pee and poo" everywhere resulting in our rivers all being polluted, writes Malcolm Lumsden."
Ed: Being an elected councillor you will be well known to that lady. She might have voted for you. She'll have read your opinions in the local paper no doubt. Sounds like you chaired a controversy. Also sounds like you lost the vote too. Her comment might be termed an expression of the court of public opinion. If it's too hot in the kitchen, maybe you're in the wrong job...
"I quietly replied to her that over her lifetime, she would pass as much pee and poo as a cow because she would probably live 11 times longer."
Ed: Now that comment - if you really said it - says more about you than it does about her. Sounds like you got real hot under the collar and gave her the sort of verbal whack normally reserved for the Council chamber. Bully-boy tactics. There was a letter to the editor that pointed out your maths didn't take account of the fact there'd be 11 cows worth of pee and poo in her lifetime. That lack of math doesn't reflect well on your argument either. How do your other scientific arguments stack up?
"She would also use all manner of chemical substances for her health, washing herself, her clothes, and dishes, all of which would ultimately enter the water via sewage pond discharges. As well she will send tons of toxic rubbish to landfills, and own vehicles that will pollute the roadside waterways with toxic residues."
Ed: Ignoring the spurious argument about the car - talk about flailing around - let's talk about human poo and pee for a moment. In New Zealand most of it goes into the loo - as you very well know, being a Regional Councillor - and it's piped to a waste water treatment plant. Solids are separated and bathing quality wastewater gets discharged (I know there are exceptions). Solids mostly go to landfill - not because of what she puts down the loo - but because industry is allowed to put toxic waste down the sewer. Now I know that's not a perfect system, but it's a damn sight better than letting cows pee and poo onto fresh soil and grass.
"She was not impressed with my response. Our rivers were the most polluted in the world she retorted."
"I reminded her that by international standards, the Waikato is the fourth cleanest river in the world. In fact I said, my dear old cow Daisy will on a really hot day only consume about 70 litres of water, compared with the urban average usage of 200 to 230 litres per human."
Ed: What international standards are you using here? According to Wikipedia's list of Rivers New Zealand, the Waikato is one of more than 500 New Zealand Rivers. Do you really believe the Waikato is the fourth cleanest river in New Zealand - the best case reading of what you said. You must know that dozens of NZ rivers run from mountain to sea without going anywhere near human habitation. Unlike the Waikato which drains dozens of farm catchments not to mention more than a dozen waste water treatment plants. Seriously.
"Our 6.4 million dairy cows only drink about 500 million litres per day compared with 4.5 million people using 900 million litres per day."
Ed: Your water consumption comparisons are laughably selective because you ignore the water used to grow Daisy's grass let alone the water used to wash down the milking shed.
"Daisy I said, will spread her waste naturally on the soil where it will be filtered and used by plants."
Ed: I could accept this part of your argument to describe NZ dairy farming before the days of Fonterra and dairy industrialisation. In Southland and parts of the Waikato dairy farming has been managed in ways that don't damage natural waters. Problem also is - as you well know - when too much pee and poo is spread by Daisy (and she's not a smart beast) then it washes over the plants and through the soil and into the groundwaters below. Where it slowly accumulates, taking years to wash out, and nitrating the aquifers.
"On the other hand human waste gets piped away and will basically have the solids removed before being discharged into waterways, chemicals and all. Stormwater is full of nasties from the concrete urban jungles and roads, and goes straight into waterways."
Ed: As a Regional Councillor you should know very well that two wrongs don't make a right. Just because some human activity can be dirty, doesn't justify permitting intensive dairy which adds to that damage. (Remember cumulative effects?) In any case all discharges from human wastewater treatment systems have to be consented, reach monitored standards in most larger urban cases, that the treated wastewater should meet swimming standards. This is a core issue. Pee and poo from individual cows does not have to get, or satisfy, any discharge consent. You are not comparing apples with apples. A fatal argument I would say around any Council Chamber.
"So why, I asked, are you picking on Daisy who lives a toxin-free lifestyle, consumes few resources, and discharges a pittance of what humans do into our environment?
Daisy I suggest is also more productive than most anti-farmer advocates."
Ed: Well yes. But apparently the same land used to grow grass could also grow other crops. And you mustn't forget - if you want to tell the whole story - that New Zealand has to import thousands of tons of Palm Kernel oils from Asia which come from land cleared of bush by fires causing people in Malaysia to suffer smoke-related health problems. With respect - it's not the argument here. Though distraction can be useful to win a Council debate. The natural resource that is being affected is the natural water resource. You could equally well argue for more coal-mining and more iron sands mining in New Zealand. The opportunities have to be weighed against the costs. That's what good and balanced Regional Councillors are expected to do.
"Gasping for rebuttal, my lady then said we should become organic farmers. Look at Cuba, they are still growing food and have had no fertiliser for years.
Well I responded, science says organic farming cannot feed the world and needs twice the land of modern farming to produce the same amount while being less environmentally friendly."
Ed: Good old 'science says'. I don't know which books you've been reading. The opposite is true from what I read. It might be true to say that some prefer the taste of dairy milk to soy milk - but soy and similar products use less resource (add in water and energy and include the complete life cycle) to produce the same food value.
"But I conceded I would be happy if she wanted to reduce her standard of living to that of the average Cuban with a rate of pay similar to those workers in Cuba. It would certainly reduce my rates bill.
As I walked away, I heard the man behind the desk say to the council lady, "You picked the wrong fella to have an argument with today."
I felt quite uplifted in the knowledge that the argument can be had. The fact is, most good urban folk only get one side of the story."
Ed: You were the right man for that lady to challenge. You are a Regional Councillor to make sure agricultural economic development takes place in ways that do not damage natural waters. You know that. If she doesn't think you're doing that properly, she's right to challenge you.
"Green extremists and others such as Dr Mike Joy, who wants all dairy cows removed from New Zealand by 2050, are never challenged as to what this will mean for New Zealand.
Basically they want all meat, milk, and other animal products removed from our diets.
By masquerading as environmental carers, the socialist greens anti-farmer campaign is conditioning people to believe farmers are the enemy of New Zealand.
This is economic sabotage based on populist ill-informed rhetoric that is short on facts and science."
Ed: You need to look in the mirror when you make statements like this, mate. What you've put here is woefully short of science or fact.
There is no acknowledgement that over the past five years dairy farmers have spent more than $1 billion improving the environment. Despite the anti-farmer misinformation campaign, the environment affects us all.
Ed: Fonterra's annual earnings last year totalled $18.8bn. Five years of that = almost $100billion. And that's after paying the farmers. I think $1billion to clean up their practices - 1% - is not much in the scheme of things. Many rivers in New Zealand have been severely damaged by intensive dairy farming. That's still happening. It needs to stop/or solutions need to be found and paid for.
This rhetoric has infiltrated the Waikato Regional Council's new Plan 1 change which will allow the council to control every farm activity by means of a farm plan resource consent.
The council will dictate land use, stock numbers, fertiliser use, what type of crops may be grown and where, plus much more.
Farmers in Taupo, who are ahead of the rest of the region, are now being told they must provide the council with their annual financial accounts. This amounts to nationalism of agriculture. Urban businesses that have an impact on the environment will be next.
Ed: You will know that Councils are cash strapped doing their job. In an urban setting Councils use the Government Valuation of your property to calculate the rates you pay to cover the costs of services. It's a proxy for user pays with an element of ability to pay. Dairy farming accounts would work the same way - the more you earn from the land and its waters - the more you can afford to pay toward any regulatory costs. I'd say that's a fair approach - rather than making each farmer pay the same.
Wake up New Zealand, if agriculture is hobbled by this socialist madness, and New Zealand continues to bite the hand that feeds it, maybe life in Cuba may start to look attractive after all.
Ed: This is crazy stuff. New Zealand farming is highly unregulated - and could not be further fram being nationalised - unless you describe the Fonterra setup as national control of dairy farming and exports. Our rivers are nationally owned and public resources. So are the country's groundwater supplies. Just because you're a farmer doesn't give you property rights to do what you bloody-well like to that water. Good science and good governance at local, regional and national levels and good decision-making - based on science and fact not bullying - are essential.