Meat & Livestock News

Global Dairy Summit Reveals Divergent Approaches to Farming Challenges: New Zealand’s Regulatory Stance Contrasts with International Trends

One of black-and-white dairy cows looking at worker of farmhouse out of fence of cowshed while eating hay

At the International Dairy Federation World Dairy Summit held in Chicago in late 2023, Richard McIntyre, Federated Farmers’ dairy chair, gained insights into global dairy farming challenges and approaches, particularly contrasting New Zealand’s methods with those of other countries.

McIntyre observed that dairy farmers worldwide face similar challenges, but the response strategies vary significantly. He noted that while New Zealand’s government is heavily involved in regulating agriculture, including plans to tax greenhouse gas emissions from farmers, other countries are adopting different tactics.

For instance, the US government focuses on enabling the dairy industry to adopt sustainable practices by removing barriers and encouraging the uptake of sustainable technologies.

In countries like the US, change within the dairy sector is often driven by processors rather than government intervention. Processors are increasingly inquiring about issues like animal welfare and sustainability, prompting the industry to respond with quality assurance programs and incentives for sustainable practices, rather than relying solely on regulation.

A key theme from the summit was the importance of involving farmers in the journey towards meeting various requirements, whether they stem from quality assurance programs or government mandates. McIntyre emphasised the need for changes in dairying to be science-based, focusing on emissions, water quality, and animal welfare, rather than being driven by subjective opinions.

McIntyre’s visit to dairy farms in Wisconsin highlighted the contrast between the US and New Zealand. Many US dairy farms are small, family-run operations, often spanning several generations, unlike the relatively shorter land tenure of most New Zealand dairy farmers.

Despite their economic challenges, these US farmers are determined to continue their legacy, which McIntyre believes contributes to the US’s protective trade stance in dairy.

Despite the challenges facing the dairy industry, McIntyre returned from the summit feeling optimistic about the future of dairy. He highlighted the essential role of dairy products in contributing to healthy lives and the importance of maintaining sustainability and animal welfare standards in the industry. His attendance at the summit was courtesy of the International Dairy Federation NZ.