The Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) is an applied research and information transfer organisation responsible primarily to New Zealand arable growers.
*Originally published by David Cooper, Principal Advisor for Federated Farmers.
Intensive Winter Grazing is subject to new rules under the new National Environmental Standards for Freshwater Regulations 2020 (NES). These are national rules, so impact everybody who intensively grazes stock over winter.
If intensive winter grazing cannot meet all specified permitted activity conditions it will require a consent. Importantly, if you have not wintered stock on your property within the past five years, a discretionary resource consent will be required.
What is intensive winter grazing?
New definitions for ‘intensive winter grazing’ and ‘annual forage crop’ effectively mean intensive winter grazing is any grazing on in situ crop (other than pasture) between 1 May and 30 September in the same year.
Permitted activity – what you can do without needing resource consent
From now until 2025, you can only winter stock on your farm if it has been used for intensive winter grazing between 1 July 2014 and 30 June 2019, and the area of the farm used for intensive winter grazing must be no greater than that used over that prior period.
There are two scenarios under which your intensive winter grazing can meet the permitted activity requirements:
Permitted activity scenario 1:
You have used the same (or less) area of intensive winter grazing on farm, over the five previous winters, and meet all of the permitted activity standards outlined below:
- The area of the farm used for intensive winter grazing must be less than or equal to 50ha or 10% area of farm, whichever is greater, AND
- The mean slope of a paddock used for intensive winter grazing must be less than or equal to 10 degrees, and:
- On a paddock used for wintering, pugging at any one point must be less than or equal to 20cm; AND ALL pugging must not be more than 50% of the paddock; AND
- Livestock must be more than 5m from the BED of any river, lake, wetland or drain (even when dry); AND
- Any land used for intensive winter grazing must be replanted after livestock have grazed the crop by 1 October of that year (unless you’re within Otago Regional Council or Environment Southland boundaries, in which case you have to replant by 1 November each year for the next three winters).
Compliance officers can seek reasonable details from you around (a), (d) and (e) above.
Permitted activity scenario 2:
You have used the same (or less) area of intensive winter grazing on farm, over the five previous winters, and have a certified Freshwater Farm Plan that includes intensive winter grazing, and the certifier of that plan certifies that the adverse effects are no greater than those provided for as the permitted activity conditions outlined in scenario 1 (a) to (e).
Restricted discretionary consent conditions
If you are planning to use the same (or less) area for intensive winter grazing on your farm, that you did over the five previous winters, but cannot meet the permitted activity standards outlined above, you can apply for a restricted discretionary consent but must provide sufficient information with your application so that Council can consider:
- the adverse effects of the activity on ecosystems, freshwater, and water bodies:
- the adverse effects of the activity on the water that affect the ability of people to come into contact with the water safely:
- the adverse effects of the activity on Māori cultural values:
- the susceptibility of the land to erosion, and the extent to which the activity may exacerbate or accelerate losses of sediment and other contaminants to water:
- the timing and appropriateness of the methods (if any) proposed to avoid, remedy, or mitigate the loss of contaminants to water.
Discretionary activity consent
If the land on your farm has not been used for intensive winter grazing in the period 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2019, or if the area of the farm you are intending to use for intensive winter grazing is greater than that used for intensive winter grazing in the period 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2019, you need to apply for a discretionary consent.
When you apply for a discretionary consent you must show that the intensive winter grazing planned will not result in an increase in:
- Contaminant loads in the catchments (compared to those at end of 2 Sep 2020); AND
- Will not result in an increase in concentrations of contaminants in freshwater or other receiving environments (including the coastal marine area or geothermal water) compared to concentrations at close of 2 September 2020.
Any discretionary activity consents can only be granted for a term that ends before January 2031.
Answers to frequently asked questions
The paddocks I’m wanting to graze on are not mapped as low slope land on MFEs maps, but they’re on the plains? Can I still winter graze there?
No. The ‘low slope’ maps for stock exclusion appear to be based on the land parcel, not particular paddocks. You will still be required to work out the average slope of the specific paddock you are winter grazing in.
How do I work at the average slope of a paddock I’m wanting to intensive winter graze?
There is no direction on this in the NES or supporting documents. We are seeking clarity from the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries in this regard.
Where do I measure the bed of a river, lake, drain or wetland from?
There is no direction on this in the NES or supporting documents. We are seeking clarity from the Ministry for the Environment – but in most cases, it will be from the outer edge of the river bank where there is one.
Are my artificial drains captured?
It depends on what the drain is used for. If it is used for the drainage of surface or subsurface water, then it is captured and you need a 5m setback from the bed of that drain, to meet the permitted activity conditions. If the drain is used for the conveyance of water for electricity generation, irrigation, or water supply purposes, then it is not captured in the conditions and you do not have to have a 5m setback under the permitted activity conditions.
I cannot meet the permitted conditions, how do I know if there will be an effect on Māori cultural values?
Assessing the potential effect on Māori cultural values will require engagement with local Iwi, and those values will be specific to each river, lake or wetland.
If I haven’t winter grazed the property since 2013, can I do that now?
You will need to apply for a discretionary consent and meet the requirements for that.
I haven’t wintered my animals on this farm block before, how do I show that there won’t be an increase in catchment contaminant loads or concentrations into freshwater? How is this measured?
You will require an environmental assessment, which will have to reflect previous land use as a benchmark. Because the wording of the rule does not reflect any degree or scale of increase, it will be difficult to demonstrate this. The ability to meet this condition will be heavily contingent on your regional council having sufficient information. Again, this is an area we are seeking clarity on, from the Ministry for the Environment.
Are there reasonable exemptions for pugging around water troughs, hay bales or other areas in which supplementary feed is used?
No. Unfortunately, the regulations have not provided for common sense exemptions and do not factor in practical difficulties of farming.
For many years the arable sector has been viewed as the invisible partner of New Zealand agriculture. A somewhat harsh viewpoint maybe, but with a strong ring of truth given our predominantly domestic, commodity market focus and the fact that we have chosen to fly under the radar on most of the major policy issues affecting New Zealand’s economic, environmental and social development.
However, I believe the ‘invisible partner’ image is slowly changing and could change even more if the entire sector worked together to make it happen. Think about Covid-19... what was the first food to fly off the supermarket shelves as New Zealand moved into lockdown? Not meat, not milk, not fruit… but bread, then flour, and pasta. What was the thing that Kiwis were hanging out to do once lockdown was over? Head out to a local café for a decent coffee and cake or tea and biscuits.
Suddenly the New Zealand public recognised the value of having a local grains industry, something that they had been taking for granted for years. Add to that the challenging drought conditions in the North Island over the last six months, which have driven a strong demand for more locally produced animal feed, and the role of the New Zealand arable sector in sustaining the New Zealand economy is starting to become more obvious to a lot more people.
And there’s more to arable than food and feed. Integrating arable crops into farming systems could contribute to a reduction in New Zealand’s agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and help protect our natural resources, supporting our position as a leader in sustainable food production. Achieving this will require a re-setting of the New Zealand agri-landscape, with a move towards more diversified and integrated farm systems utilising the very best of New Zealand’s animal and plant productive capabilities. The much tried and tested mixed cropping/livestock system suddenly becomes an attractive option when you are looking for a business model that has a positive environmental footprint and delivers the resilience and adaptability that we know will be required into the future. You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to work out the potential opportunities for cropping in this future scenario.
So what next? How can we build on all the good things arable has to offer?
The next three to five years will be crunch time for the arable sector. It can choose to stay under the radar, and let the larger primary sectors direct New Zealand’s agri-economic and environmental development, or it can stand up and be counted by promoting the benefits of arable cropping to the other sectors, to the Government and to the wider New Zealand public. As a sector, we have strong messages that should resonate with each of those groups.
We know New Zealand grown grain and silage can add value to the livestock sectors:
- We need to bring the evidence to the table and present it in a way that encourages them to embrace it as part of their systems.
We know the Government is committed to reducing the environmental impacts of the agricultural sector:
- We need to provide it with data that illustrates our positive environmental footprint and the opportunities to integrate crops into other systems to mitigate their risks and enhance their footprint.
We know that New Zealanders like the idea of eating food grown in New Zealand:
- We need to raise awareness amongst New Zealand consumers about the many benefits of locally sourced grain and other arable crops.
As a sector, we are in a strong position to deliver these messages. We have a vibrant research agency in FAR that can deliver the research to show the benefits of arable cropping. We have strong advocacy operating at all levels within both our sector and the wider agricultural sector. We have re-invigorated our whole of industry body AFIC (Arable Food Industry Council) to build a common vision across the supply chain. And, of course, we have nearly 3000 growers that operate at the highest level of technical competency, showing a level of business acumen, adaptability and innovation that exceeds many other sectors.
But we need to lift our game. Collectively, we need to take every opportunity to promote and profile our sector. We need to get our good news stories out, not just into the farmers’ magazines, but also into the wider public arena. Consumer demand is driven by marketing, and arable has no presence in this space compared to the other sectors (e.g. 5+ a-day fruit and vegetables, Red meat - Feel good etc). If the New Zealand public sees the benefits in what we grow and how we grow it, they will act as the lever for change within the retail markets which in turn will drive change in the supply chain.
Similarly, as a sector, arable has to become more vocal in the policy and advocacy space. Most government agencies have a very simplistic view of what we are and what we do. We need to work together to provide them with an understanding of how arable underpins much of New Zealand’s agricultural sector by producing seed and providing feed.
But this advocacy, education and promotion has to be a joined-up, whole sector, focus. FAR can fund the research needed (including market research), but it will take more resources (time, money, energy) than we have, to drive all of the cogs in the wheel to get us to where we want to be.
So, the big question is, do you as growers want to get out from under the radar, and help make things happen for your industry? FAR is ready to support you if the answer is yes.
Alison Stewart, CEO