Rural round-up

01/04/2021

Dairy farmers warn of hidden costs of reducing climate gas emissions – Jonathan Milne:

The dairy industry says its already a world leader on the farm and is improving its factory processing, but worries about the impact of further emissions cut on its communities

Fonterra and Synlait are attempting to shift energy-intensive boilers and other industrial processes to renewables, but farmers are worried that one-in-three will go backwards financially.

Fonterra will publish its submission to the Climate Change Commission this morning. The cooperative, owned by 10,000 farming families, produces 20 per cent of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions – the vast majority of those from farming.

New Zealand’s dairy farmers have already reduced their carbon footprints well beyond global benchmarks, and have been consistent in saying they need more R&D investment from Government and industry to make further emissions cuts. . . 

Driven by passion for all things rural – Toni Williams:

Mt Somers farmer and businesswoman Kate Acland is passionate about the rural sector.

She knows it is facing enormous change with environmental reforms set to affect farm businesses, but wants to be at the table as the sector works to address the challenges.

She is on the board of Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand,has past involvement with the Strong Wool Action Group and has just taken a place on the board of Beef + Lamb New Zealand as the northern South Island farmer-director.

“I’m hugely passionate about the sector and future of our family farming businesses.

“Beef and Lamb is a fantastic organisation and I feel very strongly that it has a key role to play in the successful future of those businesses.’’ . . 

Quarter of farmers to measure emissions by end of year – Marc Daalder:

The He Waka Eke Noa primary sector partnership with central government says it is on track for 25 percent of farmers to be measuring their emissions by the end of the year, Marc Daalder reports

As submissions closed on the Climate Change Commission’s historic draft advice on decarbonising New Zealand, the primary sector is hailing the accomplishment of a crucial milestone: Some 11,000 farmers are now measuring their greenhouse gas emissions.

He Waka Eke Noa: The Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership was set up in 2019 as an agreement between the primary sector and central government to move towards all farmers measuring their emissions by the end of 2022 and a price on agricultural emissions by 2025.

In order for farmers to pay for the emissions from their livestock and produce, they have to know how much they emit in the first place. Already, 11,000 farmers are able to measure their emissions, He Waka Eke Noa programme director Kelly Forster said, and a quarter of the country’s farmers will be doing so by the end of the year. . . 

Shearing stalwarts lauded – Simon Henderson:

Family tradition and fine wool came together at a meeting of the New Zealand Merino Shearing Society as four stalwarts were awarded life memberships during a ceremony at the Lodge Manuherikia Kilwinning in Alexandra on Sunday.

Life member and past-president Graeme Bell, of Alexandra, presented the awards alongside senior vice-president Lane McSkimming and junior vice-president Janet Smith to Greg Stuart, Don Moffat, Allan Paterson, and John Nelson.

Mr Nelson first came as a helper to shearing shows in the late 1960s.

He started competing in shows before becoming a committee member in 1983, a role he had continued to the present day, Mr Bell said. . . 

Leaft Foods announces $20m programme to tackle global plant protein market and signals potential to lower farm emissions:

The programme will develop technology that extracts edible protein from New Zealand grown green leafy crops. Leaft Foods seeks to produce high-quality protein ingredients for use in a range of food products across the rapidly growing global market for plant-based foods.

Leaft Foods’ innovation is the co-production of a low-emission animal feed, optimised for ruminant nutrition that could significantly reduce farm nitrogen losses. On-farm trials will demonstrate a viable pathway to adoption and commercial uptake for New Zealand farmers and credentialing the system’s economic and environmental benefits.

“We are building on New Zealand’s reputation as a trusted producer of high-quality protein. Our vision is to reduce the environmental impact of agricultural systems and to meet the increase in demand for plant proteins that align with consumer values,” says Maury Leyland Penno, Founder of Leaft Foods. . . 

Bill Gates’ farmland buying spree highlights investment appeal – Judith Evans:

With productivity expected to increase, arable land is attractive — and can help meet carbon-neutral targets.

The Horse Heaven Hills in Washington State are known for wines, wind farms and potatoes. And, recently, swaths of the area have been bought up by Bill Gates.

The Microsoft co-founder acquired 14,500 acres of the fertile land in 2018, helping to make him the largest private farmland owner in the US, with total holdings of almost 250,000 acres, according to disclosures in the US publication The Land Report this year.

Gates may operate at a vast scale, but he is not alone. Although the global farmland market is still highly fragmented — in the US, institutional ownership is estimated to account for just 2.2 per cent by the US Department of Agriculture — investment by financial institutions and wealthy individuals has surged since the financial crisis, in relative terms. . .

 


NZ sheep & beef farms nearly carbon neutral

09/10/2020

Science backs claims of New Zealand farming’s low emissions:

Independent research has found New Zealand’s sheep and beef farms are already close to being carbon neutral and strengthens calls for the formal recognition of on-farm sequestration.

The study led by Dr Bradley Case at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) estimates the woody vegetation on New Zealand sheep and beef farms is offsetting between 63 percent and 118 percent of their on-farm agricultural emissions.

If the mid-point in the report’s range is used, on average the woody vegetation on sheep and beef farms is absorbing about 90 percent of these emissions.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand CEO Sam McIvor says absolute greenhouse gas emissions from New Zealand sheep and beef production have reduced by 30 percent since 1990.

“This research shows that of the remaining emissions, the vast majority are being offset by the trees on our farms and New Zealand sheep and beef farmers are well on the way to being carbon neutral by 2050.”

The study reinforces the importance of farmers getting formal recognition for the sequestration happening on their farms, says Mr McIvor.

“Currently, most vegetation on sheep and beef farms does not qualify for inclusion in the ETS because it does not meet the definition of a forest. If farmers are to face a price for agricultural emissions, it’s only fair they get credit for their sequestration. 

Farmers are liable for their animals’ emissions but get no credit for trees on their farms – that’s neither fair nor science-based.

“The focus to date on livestock’s climate change contribution has been on emissions, rather than on sequestration. But with any product it makes sense to consider the whole business – in this case, taking a whole of farm approach.

“The study should also reassure consumers that New Zealand beef and lamb is among the most sustainable in the world, and our farmers are making a significant contribution to addressing on-farm agricultural emissions.

“These findings should be of immense pride for New Zealand’s sheep and beef farmers, the 92,000 people employed in what is New Zealand’s largest manufacturing sector, and all New Zealanders.”

Dr Bradley Case, Senior Lecturer in GIS and Remote Sensing in the Applied Ecology Department, School of Science at AUT, said there is a strong case for farmers to get credit for the sequestration happening on their farms.

“This is an integral part of He Waka Eke Noa, the regulatory framework that industry and government are currently developing to manage agricultural emissions and recognise on-farm sequestration.

“This research not only builds understanding of the overall greenhouse gas contribution of the sheep and beef sector, but will help inform the development of policy, and further reinforce the outstanding biodiversity on sheep and beef farms.”  

According to the AUT report, the woody vegetation is made up of 1.52 million hectares of native forest and 0.48 million hectares of exotic vegetation.

In addition to sequestering carbon, this vegetation delivers wider benefits for New Zealand’s biodiversity and freshwater ecosystems. 

“The report identifies where sheep and beef farmers can focus on to continue to build the native vegetation and biodiversity on their farms,” says Dr Case.

“The regional maps in the research indicate where management is most needed to ensure mature/old growth forests are managed to prevent them becoming sources of atmospheric carbon.”

Importantly, the net carbon emissions estimation assumed a net-neutral rate for soil sequestration so the amount of sequestration happening could be even greater.

“While there is fairly good information about soil carbon stocks, there is not good data about yearly changes in soil sequestration and the science on this is still in development.”

About the research

The AUT research was commissioned by B+LNZ. The report was written by Dr Bradley Case and Catherine Ryan and was peer reviewed by Dr Fiona Carswell, Chief Scientist, Manaaki Whenua -Landcare Research and Dr Adam Forbes, Senior Ecologist, Forbes Ecology, Research Associate and New Zealand School of Forestry, University of Canterbury.

Further points to note

The study has not quantified the sequestration taking place on dairy farms, but the findings are helpful for the dairy farmers who do have sequestration happening on their farms and would like to get credit for this. The beef emissions figure in the research includes an allocation for dairy-beef.

The report uses GWP100, because this is the metric used internationally to compare greenhouse gases and it allows researchers to estimate emissions and subtract sequestration on the same basis. 

B+LNZ has commissioned research by AgResearch to use this study to calculate a net carbon footprint for New Zealand beef and lamb and to investigate developing a carbon footprint using GWP*, a metric that new research indicates can better reflect the warming impact of different gases on the globe because of the way it accounts for short-lived emissions such as methane. . . 

New Zealand farmers are the most efficient producers of beef and lamb in the world.

This research adds to our environmental credentials by showing that almost all emissions from our stock are off-set by carbon sequestration on farms.

You can read the summary report here.

You can read the full report here.


Rural round-up

26/10/2019

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

25/10/2019

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

16/08/2019

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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