New Zealand needs to get rid of 80per cent of its dairy cows, Rachel Stewart says.
The Canon Media Awards Opinion Writer of the Year was a guest speaker at the annual meeting for Wanganui Federated Farmers.
She was also the group's president for four years in the early 2000s. Dairy farming was responsible for 80per cent of degradation to New Zealand waterways and Federated Farmers needed to stop denying it, she said.
This year's budget allocated $100million to cleaning up waterways.
"The taxpayer cleans up, and the polluters continue to pollute."
Meanwhile the National-led Government was encouraging more irrigation and more dairying.
Tourism overtook dairy as the country's main income earner in November. Tourists came to New Zealand for its great outdoors, scenery and "100% Pure" reputation.
Government was attacking "the very thing that brings in the tourists - the environment".
It was encouraging "all eggs in one basket" dairying and cutting Conservation Department spending year on year.
Irrigated dairy farming made water, a public asset, available to increase private wealth. It was equivalent to a subsidy for dairy farmers and "the biggest transfer of public wealth into private hands".
Federated Farmers, banks and agricultural publications have been complicit in encouraging dairy farmers to keep borrowing, in a Fox News Channel-type approach.
"Is it that dairy farmers think being $5 million in debt is normal? That isn't normal."
She slated the Feds for denying waterways were degraded, and trying to shift the blame to sewage contamination from towns.
The "urban liberals" who "pretty much run the country" found that laughable.
Federated Farmers should hire public relations people rather than letting provincial presidents make statements urban people found "moronic".
"We laugh at you. You have no idea how moronic you sometimes look."
Only one dairy farmer, Brian Doughty, was at the AGM, and he wasn't a denier.
"All Federated Farmers need to do," he said, "is to publicly acknowledge they have actually screwed a fair bit of water in New Zealand. The next thing is to stand up and try and do something about fixing it."
He's allowed to leach 40kg of nitrogen and is doing 4kg at the moment.
Stewart expected to be shot down over her speech, and pointed out a cross on the back of her shirt that would make a target. But she did get a reaction.
Tim Matthews countered that farmers had put in a lot of work, fencing and planting their streams.
Stewart said that didn't capture nitrogen, which leached through soil into groundwater.
Lyn Neeson said food prices would rise if farmers had to up their environmental management, and she was assuming all urban liberals weren't vegans.
Stewart predicted there would be synthetic milk in five years, and people wouldn't be eating meat in 10 years.
"The dairy industry is in decline, and I'm sorry to say that we need some people to go under."