Federated Farmers has told a conference of Royal New Zealand Forest & Bird Protection Society members that clean, green and sustainable farming methods are being used, compared to 30 years ago.
Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said the National government was committed to developing agriculture three decades ago by clearing more land and putting more livestock on it.
He said too much land, about 800,000 hectares of hill country, was cleared to make way for farming.
Mr Wills said some farmers back then would discharge effluent from sheds straight into streams and today there was not a single farmer doing that.
He said farmers need to have profitable businesses to be able to sustain environmentally responsible practices.
The Department of Conservation told the conference that the future of export primary production lies in clean and green sustainable methods of farming.
The two-day conference at Te Papa in Wellington ended on Saturday.