Claims of "Farmergeddon" are flying as farmers reel from news their profits could be slashed by more than 40 per cent if a new controversial environmental plan goes ahead.
One Plan, instigated by Horizons Regional Council and eight years in the making, has drawn criticism from Fonterra, Federated Farmers and primary production organisations as being too stringent.
One Plan aims include reducing nitrogen leaching to help reverse pollution in surface water.
Memos obtained by the Manawatu Standard sent to Environment Minister Amy Adams and Primary Industries Minister David Carter by officials highlight new evidence which shows farmers' profits could drop by from 22 to 43 per cent if One Plan is followed to the letter.
The new research, commissioned by the Primary Industries Ministry and conducted by Landcare Research, was not presented at the Environment Court appeal hearings.
Instead, the Environment Court heard evidence that farm costs would rise by between under 5 per cent and up to 16.6 per cent a year.
Federated Farmers strategic communications manager David Broome called the numbers "Farmergeddon" and chief executive Conor English said the new numbers quoted in the confidential memos made for some grim reading.
"They are very different from what has been thrown around in the past," he said.
"It would be hard for anyone to accept those sorts of profit losses in any industry."
The memos also state the Environment Court's decision to toughen up the plan is "likely to have significant economic and social impacts".
Mr Carter said there was no question about the importance of freshwater quality, but it was equally important that regional plans should not inhibit growth.
He would be concerned about any proposed plan that could hinder profitability and inhibit further productivity increases in agriculture, he said.
Mr English said the discrepancy between the two reports showed local government needed to take more notice of the Resource Management Act's requirement to look at economic impacts when proposing new policy.
Federated Farmers had always maintained the reduction in nitrogen targets for surface water set by One Plan would mean farmers in some areas would have to reduce herd sizes, he said.
"A farmer borrows according to his income and if that income is suddenly reduced it means he might not be able to furnish his debt and, of course, once farms go on the market and are not profitably viable, who is going to buy them?"
Mr English said the issue should have been looked at in the early stages of One Plan rather than at the 11th hour.
Horizons Regional Council chairman Bruce Gordon said he was unaware of the Landcare research.
Manawatu/Rangitikei Federated Farmers president and dairy farmer Andrew Hoggard said he wanted realistic proposals that were not going to put farmers out of business.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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