Environmental, economic and social aspects critical

Can you have too much of a good thing? That is the question being asked by Landcorp chief executive Steven Carden in relation to the dairy industry at the recent South Island Dairy Event.

Mr Carden said at the moment it was a very good time to be in the dairy industry but people involved in the industry still needed to weigh up three aspects of the industry which were the economic, social and environmental aspects.

Ten months into his role as chief executive, Mr Carden has high hopes for Landcorp, but said people had the wrong view of the State Owned Enterprise.

The business received many mixed views from New Zealand people, he said. Those views included Landcorp was not making enough money, or the Government was constantly putting money into the business.

Mr Carden said neither of those views were true but they could do some things better.

At present, the production costs of dairy per hectare were $5201 compared with sheep which was $601 per hectare.

''The dairy sector earns a lot per hectare but also costs a lot per hectare,'' Mr Carden said.

Mr Carden believes the dairy industry had the economic aspect down pat but still needed to work on the environmental issues and focus largely on the social aspects.

Environmental issues were moving quite quickly in the dairy industry and to be a better environmental farmer cost more than just doing the ''bare minimum''.

There were now regional limits being put in place that councils were working through to better improve the environmental side of dairy farming.

Mr Carden believed that farmers could solve the environmental parts of farming but the social parts were more complex.

Out of all of the people who were attending universities, studying Agricultural degrees, only a small number were going on to farms, he said.

The dairy industry needed 50,000 farm workers to enter the sector in the next decade but the requirements were becoming more difficult to enter the industry.

''Migrant labour is a good solution,'' he said.

He added people saw farming as an unnecessary danger and the industry needed to grow with health and safety regulations.

The dairy industry needed more people stepping in and with expansion continuing that need would only grow.

''Expansion of the dairy industry is a good thing ... when a dairy farmer is smiling the whole region is smiling.''

- by Nicole Sharp