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Published: 2003-03-26 00:00:00

Getting 80,000 New Zealand farmers involved in more effective farm management will benefit the whole country, this month’s Environment Waikato Drystock Liaison Group meeting heard.

Waikato farmer Graham McBride outlined progress with the SAMsn sustainable agricultural management systems project, which is bringing more than 20 different agricultural quality assurance systems under one umbrella.

Mr McBride said farmers needed to think smarter. The country had at least 21 different systems covering environmentally sustainable management for farms, there was a lot of repetition and duplication and farmers had too many choices coming at them to make an attitudinal change to their farming practices.

They were getting confused at the mixed signals from various groups, and their uncertainty about what they were supposed to do led to inaction.

He said it was important to consider who quality assurance programmes were aimed at. Instructions and advice needed to be written so the people who needed to use the information – sharemilkers and land managers could understand it. They were also under resourced to take action.

The Waikato had 27,000 farming families, 33 percent in dairying, 18 percent in beef, 10 percent in other livestock and 10 percent in fruit production. Many were running several different kinds of operations at once and all had very different recording systems.

“We’re getting compliance fatigue. We need to de-mystify, de-polysyllablise and de-jargonise these programmes. If you want to grow olives or emus, this programme is designed to be complementary.”

The SAMsn project is designed to help the primary sector improve its existing quality assurance systems to cover the key principals of production quality and safety, environment, animal welfare, financial and social issues.

The aim was to meet market and community demands and maximise economic benefits. For landowners the system would avoid duplication, provide market links, encourage uptake, reduce compliance costs and simplify their work, using existing effective tools.