Federated Farmers says large parts of rural New Zealand will have to abandon their reliance on the pastoral sector based on freshwater proposals released today.
In a statement it said the announcements could lead to wholesale land use change to meet "unnecessarily stringent" targets.
The proposed National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management nutrient levels will require parts of New Zealand to reduce their nitrogen by up to 80 per cent, Feds said.
"It becomes very hard to continue economically farming animals or growing vegetables under a regime like this," Federated Farmers environment and water spokesperson Chris Allen said.
"The long-term targets for nitrogen reduction are effectively unachievable in some parts of the country, and will end pastoral farming in these areas."
Federated Farmers said in a statement it continued to be supportive of government effort to improve and maintain water quality, the use of farm environment plans and the continued shift to 'GMP' - good management practice policy.
"But with today's proposals the government seems to be signalling it is prepared to gamble with the viability of food production as the major export earner for New Zealand."
Listen to The Country's Jamie Mackay interview Federated Farmers President Katie Milne about the Government's water policy proposals below:
Feds said freshwater quality would continue to improve in rural areas, because farmers and growers were already doing the work.
"Lumping regional councils with an entirely new regulatory system to implement and manage puts up everyone's rates, and gives little additional support to actual water quality results," Allen said.
"Millions of dollars raised from increased rates which could have been spent on more river and waterway restoration will now be spent on hearings, lawyers and other random water experts."
"Basically your rates will go up, while farmers are doing the work anyway."
Federated Farmers was particularly concerned about the proposed "interim controls" which would have untold ramifications for the New Zealand economy, as there would be an inevitable slump in land values, across all sectors and regions.
"The discussion documents say an 'interim control' is not a ban. But if it stops you from doing something with your own land, without appeal or any achievable recourse, then it's a ban, pure and simple," Allen said.
This ban would have a significantly negative knock-on effect for all rural and urban communities where the activity of the primary sector was the lifeblood earner for the cafes, sports clubs, banks, insurance companies, car dealerships, restaurants, shopping malls and all the other people downstream of New Zealand's largest earner, he said.
"All we ask is for regulation that is based on science and evidence."
Federated Farmers said it encouraged all farmers to do their best to have input into the process "despite the short consultation period of six weeks and it being held at the busiest time of the year for farmers".