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That is the view of Nuffield scholar and Oxford farmer Cameron Henderson after a whirlwind eight-week trip to investigate agricultural practices in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, the Netherlands and New Zealand.
''In New Zealand, regulation encourages farmers to get actively involved and focus on the environmental outcomes of their farm system,'' the Federated Farmers North Canterbury president said.
He had expected environmental protections in The Netherlands to be ahead of New Zealand, but found the opposite.
''They have gone down the input controls path, and I felt that it ended up being a box-ticking exercise with farmers being disengaged with what comes out at the other end.
''I saw drains running through to rivers with cropping right to the edge. There were no set-backs or sediment traps.''
Brazil was a positive experience, with many farmers involved in soil conservation and reforestation projects.
''We started in the capital Brasilia and completed a week-long loop around the inland regions visiting cropping and cattle farms,'' Mr Henderson said.
''I was really impressed with the level of understanding of their environmental footprint.
''They use direct drilling to improve soil conservation and the reforestation programme provides for a total protected area which is the same size as Western Europe.''
Mr Henderson said he enjoyed a road trip from Chicago to Des Moines, Iowa, with five fellow Nuffield scholars, visiting farms and agricultural universities.
While environmental protection practices lagged behind New Zealand, Mr Henderson said he was impressed by the quality of the American university system.
''I saw effluent being spread on frozen waterlogged ground which would never be acceptable in New Zealand.
''On the other hand, their university system is excellent with plenty of practical research and world-class extension services to get that knowledge out into the community.''
He will now begin the project section of his scholarship, investigating options for growing biofuel crops to offset carbon emissions in New Zealand.
-By David Hill