The government’s fresh-water regulations are close to being fully in place, and most in the primary sector acknowledge regardless of which government is in power, the rules will by and large remain in play. Included within them is the need for all farms to complete a freshwater farm plan (FP-FW), identifying the farm systems’ impact and risk to water quality and the receiving environment, and how these will be managed and mitigated.
In addition, regional councils may require a complete farm environment plan (FEP) over and above an FP-FW, which will include additional information such as biodiversity values.
Many farmers want to take ownership of their FEP. They know their farm best, they understand its limitations and challenges, and how to work sustainably within them. More often than not it is simply a case they hold this in their heads, rather than on any formal plan.
But FEPs have to be more than a compliance driven “box ticking” exercise and need to deliver real benefits not only to the environment, but to farmers’ profitability, given the time and commitment required to complete them.
Just as electronic tagging of livestock under NAIT has eventually delivered greater amounts of data to help farmers better manage their stock, an FEP borne of compliance should bring valuable management information with it that can be turned into informed, profitable decision making.
Already some processors are requiring farmers to furnish an FEP as part of their supply agreement, and in return offer premium level payments for extra evidence of sustainable practices.
Digitising the FEP and doing away with volumes of paper is vital to farmers who only want to enter their data once, in one place. Keeping it digitised and accessible also maintains the FEP’s role as a “living document”, easily adjusted to allow for inevitable changes in policy and the biological systems it is based on.
Putting the FEP on a digitised platform means it can be shared amongst multiple parties including compliance organisations like councils, auditors, farm consultants and key staff. As the plans become an integral part of a farm’s ability to operate, having a digitised FEP means there is no risk of loss of institutional knowledge around it when key staff depart or the property is sold.
FarmIQ has developed an FEP template that generates an auditable plan for the business, and provide insights and essential information for consultants working remotely. Farm data and records such as fertiliser applications and cropping are easily pulled through from the system.
As more farmers engage with FarmIQ’s digital FEP, the easier, less expensive and less stressful presenting the required information to all key stakeholders, including regional councils will be.
Ultimately it could also provide a valuable database of industry wide information to highlight the successes and challenges across catchments that farmers operate in.
As the requirements by local and central government for farmers to record more environmental data grows, FarmIQ’s “one-stop” input will keep the task simple and efficient, keeping plans up to date and relevant.