FEPs are unique to a property and reflect the local climate and soils, the type of farming operation, and the goals and aspirations of the land user.
The government in 2020 outlined changes through the Essential Freshwater Package which will bring in options for Freshwater Farm Plans (essentially a FEP) as a way of meeting some parts of the regulations as well as changes to the Resource Management Act to provide for the regulation of Freshwater Farm Plans. It is expected that FEPs will become compulsory over time following consultation and finalisation of FEP requirements and certification processes.
- On July 14, 2021, the Government announced consultation around Fresh Water Farm Plan (FWFP) requirements and processes. A consultation document has been released and consultation is open from 26 July until 12 September. Have your say here.
- Further information on the consultation is available on the Ministry for the Environment website.
Questions and answers
What are the most significant proposals in the Fresh Water Farm Plan discussion document that is open for consultation 26 July to 12 September?
- The framework proposed by the Ministry will go into the Resource Management Act and will require all farmers to develop a Freshwater Farm Plan as signalled in the Action Plan for Healthy Waterways. A Freshwater Farm Plan is a new component of a Farm Environment Plan.
- The discussion document proposes a phased roll out for Freshwater Farm Plans between 2022 and 2025. So, some farms will need to have their plans prepared earlier than other farmers. There are two options under consultation for the rollout – either 1) catchment by catchment or 2) prioritisation by farm characteristics and risks. The discussion document presents options but is unclear on farm risk assessment and how and who chooses the mitigations. The Ministry currently prefers option 1.
- There are no decisions made yet about which farmers will be required to have developed a Freshwater Farm Plan in 2022. The discussion document proposes a framework for how a NZ-wide farm plan regulation would work but does not say which farmers will be impacted and when.
What are DairyNZ’s views?
Dairy NZ agree that NZ-wide regulation for freshwater farm plans:
- Do not need a resource consent;
- Should be able to be completed largely by a farmer if they choose
- Be signed off by a certifier; and then
- Have actions audited.
Under Dairy Tomorrow, dairy companies will have a key role in supporting farmers to develop and update their Freshwater Farm Plan.
With all farms needing to have a Farm Environment Plan, we encourage farmers to start working with your dairy company to develop a plan soon if you don’t have one.
Is there a difference between this plan and the plan I have with Council and/or the dairy company?
They are similar with some new requirements that may include biodiversity requirements, including any covenants on your property, management of critical source areas, identifying erosion control assets, drinking water protection zones, and requirements for the plan to be audited.
DairyNZ plans to include in our submission that we want the work many farmers have undertaken to develop plans to be recognised.
What are the changes to stock exclusion slope maps?
The 2020 regulations for stock exclusion are not changing (for dairy farmers, all dairy cattle must be excluded from streams and lakes by mid-2022 regardless of slope). The Ministry is consulting on changes to the mapping tool to more accurately capture low to moderate slope land. The slope changes are more likely to affect beef, sheep and deer farmers who farm on rolling land, but may affect some dairy farmers.
How can I find out more and have my say?
The full Ministry for the Environment discussion document on Fresh Water Farm Plan requirements and processes is here and the consultation process opens on 26 July.
General information about FEPs is below. FEPs are a useful tool regardless of any regulatory requirements.
- You can record your progress towards achieving good farming practice principles (GFP)
- Helps identify environmental risks and prioritise actions
- Helps tell the story of the actions of farmers at a local level
- To continue competing on the global scale, we need to inspire confidence in animal welfare, environmental and production systems, a FEP helps do this.
What should be in an FEP?
- Farm details (location, supply number etc, farm boundaries)
- Farm maps identifying all significant infrastructure and natural features (e.g., waterways)
- An assessment of risk from farming activities on water quality (contaminants) for each of the GFP Principles (nutrients, waterways, land & soil, effluent and water use/irrigation)
- Good management practices the farm is currently doing including an assessment of the farm’s current practice against GFP
- Identification of time-bound actions in place to mitigate impacts of farming practice on the environment
- It should be prepared by you (the farmer), or with significant input from you. Consultants can help, and certification is likely to become mandatory, but at the core an FEP should be your document. Regulatory compliance should be the minimum, but an FEP needs to be a guiding document for your farm and your aspirations, not just to meet Regional Council or Government requirements.
Will it change in the future?
- A FEP is a living document so will need to be updated as you complete actions and make changes to the farm
- Some FEPs already have additional information
- Further information maybe required if not already covered on:
- An assessment of N-surplus
- Reporting of soil Olsen P
- Greenhouse gases (GHG) and good management practices to mitigate GHGs
- Further FEP components may become regulated in the future.
Agreed National Good Farming Practice principles
- Identify the physical and biophysical characteristics of the farm system, assess the risk factors to water quality associated with the farm system, and manage appropriately.
- Maintain accurate and auditable records of annual farm inputs, outputs and management practices.
- Manage farming operations to minimise direct and indirect losses of sediment and nutrients to water, and maintain or enhance soil structure, where agronomically appropriate.
- Monitor soil phosphorus levels and maintain them at or below the agronomic optimum for the farm system
- Manage the amount and timing of fertiliser inputs, taking account of all sources of nutrients, to match plant requirements and minimise risk of losses.
- Store and load fertiliser to minimise risk of spillage, leaching and loss into water bodies
- Ensure equipment for spreading fertilisers is well maintained and calibrated.
- Store, transport and distribute feed to minimise wastage, leachate and soil damage.
- Identify risk of overland flow of sediment and faecal bacteria on the property and implement measures to minimise transport of these to water bodies.
- Locate and manage farm tracks, gateways, water troughs, self-feeding areas, stock camps, wallows and other sources of run-off to minimise risks to water quality.
- Exclude stock from water bodies to the extent that is compatible with land form, stock class and stock intensity. Where exclusion is not possible, mitigate impacts on waterways.
Land and soil
- Manage periods of exposed soil between crops/ pasture to reduce risk of erosion, overland flow and leaching.
- Manage or retire erosion prone land to minimise soil losses through appropriate measures and practices. (Implementing this principle may mean that Class 8 land is not actively farmed for arable, pastoral or commercial forestry land uses as this land is generally unsuitable for these uses as described in the Land Use Capability Handbook.)
- Select appropriate paddocks for intensive grazing, recognising and mitigating possible nutrient and sediment loss from critical source areas.
- Manage grazing to minimise losses from critical source areas.
- Ensure the effluent system meets industry specific Code of Practice or equivalent standard.
- Have sufficient, suitable storage available for farm effluent and wastewater.
- Ensure equipment for spreading effluent and other organic manures is well maintained and calibrated.
- Apply effluent to pasture and crops at depths, rates and times to match plant requirements and minimise risk to water bodies.
Water and irrigation
- Manage the amount and timing of irrigation inputs to meet plant demands and minimise risk of leaching and runoff.
- Design, check and operate irrigation systems to minimise the amount of water needed to meet production objectives.