22 Nov 2013

Water report draws range of political responses

10:25 am on 22 November 2013

The new report into water quality that shows dairy farming is increasingly polluting the country's water has drawn a range of political responses.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's report says hundreds of thousands of hectares around the country have and continue to be converted from sheep and beef to dairy farms.

It says with more dairying, comes more nitrogen pollution.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said he was pleased the report acknowledged farmers are trying to address water quality and that the Government's fresh water reforms will also help.

Labour Party primary industry spokesperson Damien O'Connor says part of the problem is that there's little alternative for farmers, except converting to dairy.

He says disfunction in the meat industry and the loss of confidence by dry stock farmers has meant a big shift to dairy.

Mr O'Connor says that needs to be rebalanced and a change in the structure of the meat industry and offering farmers a clear viable alternative is an important part of dealing with the issue.

Green Party agriculture spokesperson Steffan Browning says the report confirms intensive dairying is hurting the environment and he says there's an obvious alternative.

He says a major part of the problem is the synthetic fertilisers that are very soluble.

Mr Browning says the Government has dropped funding for the organic sector. He says in best practice organics there is significantly less nitrogen leachate in dairy, there is less intensification and farmers' profitability is up.