What is so astounding about Fonterra’s latest faux pas is that the government does not seem to be connecting the dots between increasing the nitrogen levels in the Tukituki and consumer confidence in the quality of Fonterra’s products.
Consumers like to know, and are prepared to pay a premium, for sustainably produced food. No amount of spin is going to disguise the fact that putting 500% more nitrogen in the Tukituki to allow intensive dairying on the Ruataniwha Plains is going to lead to a decline in the heath of the Tukituki.
As Prof Mike Joy has pointed out so often, arguing that you can limit algae growth by limiting phosphorus is spurious. I agree that amongst other things you need water, light, nitrogen, and phosphorus to make plant life grow, and that growth rates are dependant on the ratio in which these four elements are available. However saying you can increase the amount of nitrogen by limiting phosphorus makes no sence.
Think of it this way. Given the influence the fertiliser companies have over our farming community hill country farmers will not stop applying super any time soon. In a storm no amount of riparian planting will stop phosphorus being washed into our water ways. It’s only logical. So then what happens in the river now there is increased nitrogen levels and a flood of phosphorous – massive plant growth.
So if offshore consumers become aware of how our clean green image is being tainted by the push towards corporate agriculture which destroys our river, will they still be prepared to pay a premium? It’s long overdue for fresh thinking around these issues because thinking like it’s still the 19th century just doesn’t cut it any more.