Moves to improve the accuracy of Overseer, and on-the-ground support for farmers working to lift their environmental sustainability, are positive steps, Federated Farmers says.
At Fieldays today Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor spoke about the focus of the $229 million Sustainable Land Use package from last month's Budget.
"It's good to have the details of that investment starting to be fleshed out," said Federated Farmers environment spokesman Chris Allen.
Using farmer cluster groups to share insights and best practice, and $35 million for providing practical advice, information and tools, are two of the ways that up to 2200 farmers in targeted catchment groups will get help to reduce their environmental footprint and boost their bottom line over the next four years.
"We appreciate money being spent on the ground at catchment level, because that's where the environmental gains are being made. However, we would need to consider the details of the accompanying regulatory package," said Allen.
"Especially welcome is news that around $43 million has been committed to upgrade relevant decision support tools, including improving the accuracy of Overseer's modelled estimates and boosting the range of farm systems and conditions it models."
Last year the Parliamentary Commission for the Environment highlighted significant shortcomings with Overseer - "things that we'd been talking about for some time," said Allen.
"It's a big problem for farmers when councils are setting limits on a modelled number from Overseer, even though it's commonly acknowledged those numbers can be 25-50 percent off the mark.
"And then there can be an update of Overseer that potentially completely changes the farms' modelled numbers on key factors such as nitrogen losses, which further complicates things.
"Having a tool fit for purpose for those who have genuine need to demonstrate a water quality outcome has to be a good thing," he said.
Allen is involved in the talks between Government and industry groups on integrated farm planning, and agreed with O'Connor and Ardern that a more streamlined approach for farm planning, incorporating the areas of biosecurity, animal welfare, food safety and health and safety, is worth striving for.
O'Connor said about $12 million was also committed to support Māori landowners and agribusinesses to get greater value and sustainability from their land, and $5 million was available to enhance primary industry adviser capabilities.