Rural round-up

October 26, 2019

The deal’s done – Bryan Gibson:

Farmers now control their emissions destiny but industry leaders warn the hard work starts here.

The Government has adopted He Waka Eke Noa – the Primary Sector Climate Change Commitment, which Beef + Lamb New Zealand chairman Andrew Morrison said is a good outcome for farmers.

“I hope farmers understand the importance of today,” he said.

“This is a piece of work that empowers us as a sector to put the tools in place to measure the mitigations, the sequestrations against our liabilities. 

“That’s our goal and that will drive the right behaviours.”

But now the office work is done the farm work will start. . .

Water policy stymies green work :

Hill-Country farmers will be deterred from doing environmental protection and enhancement because of limits put on land use by the proposed Essential Freshwater policies, Tararua farmers Simon and Trudy Hales say.

They believe restrictions on farmers’ ability to realise the productive potential of their land will stymie investment in environmental protection.

The couple, this year’s Supreme Award winners in the Manawatu-Wanganui Region Ballance Farm Environment Awards, estimate over the past four years they have spent about $120,000 on environmental protection on their 970ha, 819ha effective, hill country farm. . .

Taranaki farming couple reap benefit after lifetime of responsible land management – Mike Watson:

When Norton and Coral Moller decided to plant trees on a bare coastal dairy farm south of New Plymouth, the response from neighbours was disbelief.

Nearly 50 years later the retired Oakura couple are reaping the benefits.

Last month they were among 17 Taranaki Environment Award winners, for environmental leadership in dairying. . .

New Zealand’s anti-science GMO laws need to change to tackle climate change – Mia Sutherland:

If this coalition government is serious about tackling climate change and ensuring future generations are left with a prosperous planet, GMO law reform must be considered.

A poignant aspect of making a difference to New Zealand’s carbon emissions is discontinuing ‘business as usual’, meaning that the lifestyles we have founded and the way our society operates now needs to change. It’s not sustainable, and doesn’t promise the 170,000 people who took to the streets on September 27 or their children an inhabitable future.

We need to be exploring new methods, changing the way we think, and reevaluating ideas we have while taking into consideration the increasingly fast development of science. We need to reform the law about genetically modified organisms. . .

Kiwifruit pushes onto dairy land – Alan WIlliams:

Two properties destined for conversion to kiwifruit are among the few dairy farms being sold.

The farms are in the Pukehina area, east of the main kiwifruit zone at Te Puke in Bay of Plenty.

It is fringe kiwifruit land away from the main post-harvest infrastructure and indications are the buyers are already in the industry with the knowledge to make the bare-land investment, Real Estate Institute rural spokesman Brian Peacocke said.  . .

More Trades Academy places good news for primary sector:

The announcement of up to 4000 more trades training places in schools will help meet demand from students to learn about farming and horticulture, Primary ITO chief executive Nigel Philpott says.

The Government will fund 2000 more Trades Academy places, where secondary students combine full-time study with experience in the workplace, as well as up to 2000 Gateway places, where students have job placements along with classroom learning. The Trades Academies are across a number of sectors.

Primary ITO currently has New Zealand’s biggest Trades Academy, with approximately 830 students, and Mr Philpott says schools have asked for nearly 1100 Trades Academy places for next year. . .

Genetic engineering, CRISPR and food: What the ‘revolution’ will bring in the near future – Steven Cerier:

Humankind is on the verge of a genetic revolution that holds great promise and potential. It will change the ways food is grown, medicine is produced, animals are altered and will give rise to new ways of producing plastics, biofuels and chemicals.

Many object to the genetic revolution, insisting we should not be ‘playing God’ by tinkering with the building blocks of life; we should leave the genie in the bottle. This is the view held by many opponents of GMO foods But few transformative scientific advances are widely embraced at first. Once a discovery has been made and its impact widely felt it is impossible to stop despite the pleas of doubters and critics concerned about potential unintended consequences. Otherwise, science would not have experienced great leaps throughout history­­—and we would still be living a primitive existence


Working with better than against

October 25, 2019

The government has seen sense and is accepting the primary sector’s proposal on agricultural emissions.

The agreement means agriculture will not join the Emissions Trading Scheme but instead work with the Government to reduce emissions.

There will be no processor levy from 2020 to 2025 as initially proposed but farmers and growers will have to implement farm plans and calculate their emissions and offsets at the farmgate from 2025.

A processor level would have penalised more efficient farmers and given no-one an incentive to improve.

Such a tax would have taken money from farmers, leaving them with less to invest in on-farm solutions.

Progress will be reviewed in 2022 and if the Government is unhappy it will revert to the original legislation.

That threat will hang over the sector but at least there’s breathing space.

We are pleased that the Government has recognised that it does not make sense to bring agriculture into the ETS and that we have a pathway to work with the Government to develop a more appropriate framework,” the sector said in a joint statement.

“We welcome this pragmatic and sensible decision by the Government to work in partnership with industry to achieve tangible on-farm change and hope that it might provide a blueprint for the way we work together to solve environmental challenges in the future.”

Would it be too much to hope a similar approach could be taken to water policy?

The 11-member primary sector group has committed $25m over five years to achieve these goals.

That group is Apiculture NZ, Beef + Lamb, DairyNZ, Dairy Companies Association, Deer Industry NZ, Federation of Maori Authorities, Foundation for Arable Research, Federated Farmers, Horticulture NZ, Irrigation NZ and the Meat Industry Association. . .

This shows the importance of unity and what can be achieved when working together.

It also shows the sense of government working with the sector instead of trying to impose impossible goals on it.

Federated Farmers’ response is here.

DairyNZ’s response is here.

 


Science when it suits again

August 16, 2019

The government is ignoring its own scientific advice over setting methane reduction targets:

Advice to the Government from MPI’s officials shows that the Government’s proposed methane reduction targets go well beyond the science of what is needed for New Zealand to meet its 1.5⁰C Paris Agreement commitments and was purely a political decision made in Cabinet.

“Official’s advice validates the arguments we have been making that methane does not need to reduce by the amount proposed by the Government in the Zero Carbon Bill in order to limit warming to no more than 1.5⁰C,” says Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s CEO Sam McIvor.

Mr McIvor’s comments are also echoed by DairyNZ’s CEO Dr Tim Mackle.

“The agricultural sector has consistently said that the Government is asking farmers to do more than what’s required, and more than what’s being asked by other sectors of the economy, and this has been confirmed by the Government’s own advice”, says Dr Mackle.

“We are willing to play our part to address climate change and want to have a transparent and science based discussion about what that should be.”

The government can’t ask us to accept the science on climate change then ignore it in responding.

While the Government referenced the IPCC report, in applying the target for a global reduction in methane emissions to New Zealand, they have conveniently omitted the IPCC’s caveat that makes clear these global targets shouldn’t simply be slapped on individual countries.

It is also ignoring the Paris Accord which stipulates that cliamte change mitigation should not be at the expense of food production.

“The combined effect of the excessive methane targets and net zero target for nitrous oxide, which even go beyond the IPCC’s advice for this gas, means that New Zealand is effectively aiming to go below 1.5 degrees and by doing so, letting other countries off the hook,” says Mr McIvor.

The Government is even being inconsistent in its own statements in saying it has relied on IPCC advice, with parliamentary written questions showing it did not seek any specific advice from the IPCC in doing this.  Instead the Government has cherry picked the numbers it wanted and gone with the highest ranges it could find for methane, as well as going beyond what the IPCC recommended for nitrous oxide.

Federated Farmers’ National Vice President Andrew Hoggard says that the advice from MPI vindicates the sector’s position that the Government has opted for a political target on methane rather than a scientific one.

“When the IPCC explicitly states their global methane reduction targets shouldn’t be used as national targets, and Article 2 of the Paris Agreement requires countries to set targets in a manner that doesn’t threaten food production and to take into account different national circumstances, it’s disappointing that the Government has opted to pursue a political target agreed at Cabinet to make it feel good on the world stage regardless of its lack of scientific backing or the disastrous consequences it could have on New Zealand’s food producers,” says Mr Hoggard.

B+LNZ, DairyNZ, and Federated Farmers, while all having made individual submissions on the Zero Carbon Bill, are united in their view that the proposed 24-47 percent target is too high and are encouraging the Government to take a science-based approach that reflects the fact that methane only needs to reduce by a small amount each year in order to contribute no additional warming.

The government is proposing unrealistic targets. Even trying to meet them will come at a high cost, in both economic and social terms, with no environmental gain.

In doing so it is using only the science that suits it again.

There is a better way – setting realistic targets and working with agricultural groups to drive real behaviour change on farm:

Sector organisations have put forward an alternative Primary Sector Climate Change Commitment – He Waka Eke Noa – to build an enduring farm-level emission reduction framework to help the rural sector reduce its footprint.

“We want to play our part and take action. That’s why we have put forward a credible five-year work plan with clear and measurable actions, outcomes and timeframes” Dr Mackle says.  

“Our proposed plan is a collective initiative across multiple agricultural sectors, and includes rolling out Farm Environment Plans for all farms by 2025 to ensure every farmer knows their emissions footprint, where on farm those emissions are coming from, and what they can do to manage them”.

Having reliable data is important so that a farmer can make decisions and trade-offs factoring in resilience, profitability, and all the business decisions that need to be weighed up.

“We are asking the Government to partner with the agricultural sector to develop and deliver targeted programmes of action and coordinate efforts to reduce emissions. We strongly believe that working in partnership is the best approach to deliver real change” Dr Mackle added.

“DairyNZ does not support a levy on farmers in the ETS at processor level because it won’t drive the behaviour change to reduce emissions.

“It will take money out of farmers pockets at a time when it would be better invested on-farm to prepare for and start the process of managing emissions.

“Safeguarding the environment and maintaining a sustainable and competitive dairy sector is very important to our farmers, customers, and consumers. 

“Farmers care about the environment and are continuously refining their farm systems to improve environmental outcomes.“The dairy sector is committed to playing our part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions alongside the rest of the New Zealand, but policy responses need to be fair and they need to drive the right behaviours” Dr Mackle concluded.

DairyNZ’s submission on Action on agricultural emissions can be found here.

The government has a choice – it can set realistic targets for methane reduction and work with the primary sector to achieve sustainable on-farm changes; or it can ignore the science and impose unrealistic targets providing neither the tools nor incentives farmers need to make a positive difference to their practices and the environment.


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