ODT - Four southern rural projects gain MPI sustainable farming grants

Four southern farming and rural organisations have secured more than $1 million in project funding in the Ministry for Primary Industries’ latest $7.15 million sustainable farming fund grants writes Simon Hartley of the Otago Daily Times.

During the 17 years of the sustainable farming fund’s (SFF) existence, more than 1000 projects have benefited from $135 million in grants.

MPI announced the $7.15 million for a total 28 new sustainable farming fund projects yesterday, which are led by farmers, growers and foresters to tackle shared problems or develop new opportunities.

MPI director-general Martyn Dunne said the fund was for projects to trial and apply new practices to deliver economic, environmental and social benefits to local communities and New Zealand.

‘‘Through the SFF, we are able to support industries and communities to help each other to carry out applied research, field trials and demonstrations plus extension activities,’’ Mr Dunne said in a statement yesterday.

The four southern projects include $39,224 for the Clutha Community Trust for a water quality project to educate farmers to improve the quality of water leaving their farms and $143,085 for the Otago AFB Risk Management Group.

Otago AFB is a group of Otago and Southland beekeepers seeking to run new tests, and testing protocols, to eradicate American Foulbrood, a bacterial disease.

The Pomahaka Water Care Group is getting $355,610 to improve its namesake river’s water quality, examining new mitigation tools and promotion of good management practices.

The fourth southern project is the South Island Dairying Development Centre, which is is getting $565,000 to scrutinise issues concerning fodder beet feed and its sustainability for the dairy sector.

The Dairying Development Centre is a partnership between Lincoln University, DairyNZ, South Island Dairy Farmers; represented by the South Island Dairy Event network, Ravensdown Fertiliser Co-operative, Plant & Food Research, Livestock Improvement Corp and AgResearch.

Mr Dunne said the SFF projects were required to share the information they developed with their local communities to ensure wider benefits, uptake and adoption.

MPI was also trialling a pilot scheme to support SFF projects of less than $100,000 and shorter in length than existing projects — the SFF Tere, meaning ‘‘to be quick, swift or fast’’.

Four of the 28 approved SFF projects announced are SFF Tere projects, representing an investment of $271,000.

The SFF Tere projects are scheduled to start in the new year, while the remaining 24 projects from the main SFF funding round will begin from July 1.