Looking after the environment is important, but it's easiest when you're making a profit, writes Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills
Time and again we find those who excel with their environmental management are those who are also financially successful.
Twelve months ago I talked about the need for a more open, honest discussion around farming's impact on the environment.
A year on, I feel Federated Farmers and our farming community have made a lot of progress. We farmers do use the environment for our business; we also make a major contribution to the income and way of life all New Zealanders enjoy. There are genuine concerns about how some aspects of farming are affecting our water in particular and we must listen and act on these concerns.
By being upfront about agriculture's environmental issues, we gain better respect and credibility from those who care about how we look after this wonderful country of ours. In my view we have two options, we either accept we need to do better, lift our game and take leadership on these issues; or, if we choose not to, we risk more regulation.
Councils are obliged to listen to the concerns of their communities; if farmers don't react to these concerns councils are left with little option. Regulation is expensive, more officials to check that rules are met means higher rates. We farmers are also happier being in charge of our own destiny rather than being told what to do. It is better, I think, we manage this ourselves.
There are many already showing excellent leadership in this area. Recently, North Otago farmers Blair and Jane Smith were named national winners of the 2012 Ballance Farm Environment Award. They received the Gordon Stephenson Trophy in front of 300 guests at the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust's Sustainability Showcase at the Parliament buildings in Wellington.
Standing alongside them were eight other regional supreme winners, each deserving of the title of progressive, successful, environmentally conscious farmers. Time and again we find those who excel with their environmental management are those who are also financially successful.
Behind these people are thousands of farmers who do their part to take better care of the country's land and water for the generations to come.
One thing all these farmers will tell you is to be green, you must be in the black. Fencing waterways, planting trees, protecting biodiversity and putting in good effluent systems all cost money. If farmers aren't able to grow and run profitable businesses, it constrains the investment they are able to make in these areas.
Healthy finances are very much part of helping progress good environmental practices.