Kaipara organic dairy farmer Alistair Crawford is convinced dairy farmers should stop using chemical fertilisers, herbicides and drenches, start producing organic milk and make their farms more profitable.
He said October-November would be a good time to make the change and, over the six years it takes to acquire organic certification, the former conventional cockies would collect an extra 45c kgMS -- more than a 10 per cent payout increase in these tight times.
Once their milk was certified organic, the cockies would get Fonterra's $1.75kgMS organic milk premium -- giving them 45 per cent more than the $3.85 kgMS milk price the co-operative has forecast for this season.
Organics is rewarding all the way, says Mr Crawford, adding it improves animal health, lowers vet costs, and boosts soil fertility with extra worms doing far more for the land than pricey phosphate fertilisers.
Alistair's parents, Scots immigrants Morgay and the late Kit Crawford, moved north from the Waikato to a Mangakahia farm about 1976 and bought their first 67ha farm at Omana in 1981.
Alistair, 47, who had given up dairying after contracting viral encephalitis, spent several years operating a poultry farm at Poroti while the disease danger faded.
After he was judged safe to return to the cowshed in 2006, he bought 152ha alongside the three properties his parents had by this time acquired at Omana, bringing the family farm to a total 292ha.
As no phosphate fertiliser had gone on to the land under his parents' stewardship "we were already 90 per cent organic" and the family decision to seek certification was a logical step, Alistair said.
Last season, their 280 cows produced 71,500kgMS. With a new 40-a-side herringbone dairy now operating, the family plans to milk 300 cows this season and milk production is already running 60 per cent ahead of this time last year.
Like most followers of American soil scientist William Albrecht, Mr Crawford is sure the high worm count and dung beetles in the soil are doing more for the planet than the chemical products concocted by multinational companies, which he considers are depleting the fertility of agricultural land around the world.
He is not convinced Fonterra's heart is in organics. He said there were 127 organic dairy farms in the North Island two years ago and only about 63 now but hopes the current downtown in the forecast milk price will persuade more dairy farmers to make the change.
Fonterra business development manager Stuart Luxton would not tell the Northern Advocate how many organic dairy farmers there were or how much milk they produced as these numbers were "commercially sensitive".
"Fonterra has confidence in the programme and is currently looking to expand its organic milk supply from Whangarei in the north to Martinborough in the south," he said.
"Our organic programme shows signs of continued growth off the back of a worldwide shortage of organic dairy products, and the success of our new Anchor Organic milk range which we launched in New Zealand supermarkets earlier this year."
Fonterra began buying organic milk from a handful of certified suppliers about 2002.
Most of the farms were in the Waikato, but from 2007 collection was expanded to sign-up farms within the North Island.
Mr Luxton said organic suppliers were originally offered contracts on a percentage basis over milk price but, in 2007/08, this was changed to $1.05 above milk price.
"Our organic milk premium is currently $1.75 kgMS," he said.
Fonterra's organic milk is processed mainly at Hautapu, Waitoa and Morrinsville in the Waikato and Anchor Organic milk is bottled at Palmerston North.
Asked what products were made with organic milk, Mr Luxton said: "We offer a wide range of certified organic ingredients, Fonterra branded product -- like Anchor Organic fresh milk and private label product."
Products were sold here and abroad.
Asked what sort of premium organic products could command over products made with conventional milk, Mr Luxton said: "Organic products command a price premium over conventional milk products which reflects the certification and compliance costs at a farm and manufacturing level."