Rural round-up

16/03/2021

Forestry issues still need much debate – Keith Woodford:

Land-use decisions between farm and forest need unbiased information from within New Zealand, without Government screwing the scrum towards foreign investors

In my last article on forestry, a little over two months ago, I ended by saying that “there is a need for an informed and wide-ranging debate as we search for the path that will lead to the right trees in the right place, planted and owned by the right people”. Here I take up that issue again.

In the interim, the Climate Change Commission (CCC) has published its draft report on how New Zealand might meet its Paris obligations through to 2050. A key message in the report is that forestry must not be used as the ‘get out of jail card’ (my term) that avoids facing hard decisions elsewhere in the economy.

The CCC estimate is that under current policy settings and with carbon priced at $35 per tonne, then new forests will increase by 1.1 million hectares by 2050. If the carbon price rises to $50 then the CCC thinks new plantings will increase to 1.3 million hectares. . . .

Small steps boost farm’s biodiversity:

Farmers discovered that there are many ways to protect and enhance mahinga kai and biodiversity values while visiting Waimak Farm in Eyreton recently.

The 612-hectare farm includes the largest remaining kanuka stand in North Canterbury. Due to its important biodiversity values this area is being protected by farm managers Richard and Susan Pearse.

Richard Pearse says the kanuka stand provides an important seed source and seedlings have been taken from the area to try and recreate a similar ecosystem in other dryland areas. He is aiming to plant approximately 1000 native trees per year throughout the entire farm.

“It’s important for us to protect this area as there are hardly any of these dryland areas left. It is easier to protect what you already have on farm than starting from scratch.”

Arts approach to rural mental health in Tairāwhiti – Alice Angeloni:

A mental health service that uses mahi toi (the arts) to create culturally safe spaces will reach into rural Tairāwhiti.

The primary mental health service will support west rural and East Coast communities and is expected to start between April and June.

A report before Hauora Tairāwhiti’s district health board last month said $900,000 left over from another Ministry of Health contract would fund the service over two years.

But as it was a “finite resource” to 2022, with no guarantees of funding being extended, building leadership capability within the community would be key to making the service sustainable, the report said. . . 

Nature school demand grows post lockdown – Emma Hatton:

The demand for one-day nature or forest schools is on the rise, with advocates saying if schools do not provide more outdoor-based learning, the demand will continue to grow.

At Battle Hill farm in Pāuatahanui in Wellington, about a dozen children aged between four and 12, gather every Wednesday for nature school.

They start the morning with a hui to decide what the day will look like, possibly geo-caching, tree climbing or making damper to eat over the fire they will build. They also check the weather and debrief on any safety issues. . .

2021 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Industry Awards winners announced:

The 2021 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year winner is excited to be part of the New Zealand dairy industry, producing dairy products with the lowest carbon footprint in the world and is a major contributor to the New Zealand economy. 

Women achieved a clean sweep, winning all three categories in Auckland/Hauraki. Rachael Foy was named the 2021 Auckland/Hauraki Share Farmer of the Year at the region’s annual awards dinner held at the Thames Civic Centre on Thursday night and won $10,300 in prizes and four merit awards. The other major winners were the 2021 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Manager of the Year Stephanie Walker, and the 2021 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Trainee of the Year, Emma Udell.

Rachael was named the Auckland/Hauraki Dairy farm manager of the year in 2017 and placed third at the National Finals.

“The benefits of entering the Awards are numerous, including networking, benchmarking my business, the prizes, raising my profile and the National finals week,” she says. . . 

Carbon bank – Uptown Girl:

Everyone is all paper straws, and bicycles, and reusable grocery bags and water bottles, and then we’re over here like, “Here’s our dirt.”

Actually, we call it soil. And we have to make that clarification or our college soil professor will drive down here and make it for us.

But seriously. Did you know our soil, when managed right, is a massive carbon bank? That’s right – we are storing carbon right here, right below our feet!

What you’re looking at is a crop field where we grow grains to harvest every year. You’re seeing green cover crop, that was planted in the fall before harvest of our corn to make sure our soil was never bare. . .

 


Rural round-up

09/10/2020

Tractors take to Gore streets as farmers protest freshwater rules – Rachael Kelly:

Southland farmers have made their feelings about the Government’s new freshwater rules known by clogging Gore’s main street with tractors.

More than 100 machines and some bulk sowers were driven through the town in protest of new rules for farmers, which the Government introduced in September with the aim of improving freshwater quality.

And as the big machines convoyed down the street, many shoppers stopped to watch, and other drivers tooted their horns in support.

It was the first major protest after Southland Federated Farmers president Geoffrey Young called on farmers to boycott the new rules in August. . . 

 

 

 

Balance needed between regulation and innovation – Warwick Catto:

 In recent years, New Zealand’s farmers have found themselves subject to increasingly strict rules and regulations.

These are mainly in terms of how they operate, enforced as a key part of our nation’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contamination in our waterways. 

A quick review of the environmental policies announced so far by some of our key political parties, ahead of the election on October 17, suggests that further, harsher restrictions are likely. 

There’s no doubt that our agricultural sector has a vitally important part to play in New Zealand’s response to these key environmental challenges, and overwhelmingly, farmers are more than willing to adapt to meet the standards required of them.  . . 

Spotlight on vet shortage :

While the primary sector has been hailed as a saviour of the New Zealand economy during covid restrictions, a critical shortage of veterinarians and its impact on the primary sector just doesn’t seem to be viewed as important or sexy enough to see border restrictions streamlined.

“We’re led to the conclusion that veterinarians are just not viewed as important, or as sexy as other parts of the economy such as film making, which have seen wholesale exemptions created,” New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) chief executive Kevin Bryant says.

“This is surprising given veterinarians’ essential worker status during lockdown.

“We also understand that exemptions have been granted to build golf courses, build or repair racetracks and for shearers. Surely, veterinarians are at least as important in supporting the economic functioning of the country. . . 

Headwaters sheep ‘definitely superior‘ –

‘‘Being part of The Omega Lamb Project really gives you the best of both worlds,’’ North Otago farmer Ben Douglas says.

Mr Douglas and wife Sarah, and his parents, David and Cindy, farm 6000ha Dome Hills Station, near Danseys Pass.

‘‘My father tried various breeds in the past but we’ve found the Headwaters sheep is definitely superior for our type of farming. We’re very happy with their resilience and their performance. Then you have a whole other side, with the special qualities of the Omega lambs, the omega 3, the good intramuscular fats and the exceptional flavour and texture,’’ he said.

The 100% Headwaters flock was already established at Dome Hills when Mr Douglas returned to the station six years ago, following his university studies and then a banking career in New Zealand and London. . . 

It’s all kosher – Taggart –  David Anderson:

Farmer-owned cooperative Alliance Group says it has already returned $17 million of the $34.3 million it claimed from the Covid-19 wage subsidy.

In a statement to Rural News, Alliance chairman Murray Taggart said the co-op had been “open and upfront” about the wage subsidy.

“We have been in ongoing discussions with the Ministry of Social Development about the application of the subsidy and stated from the outset that we would return any funds not used to pay people. In line with that commitment, we have returned $17 million of the subsidy.”

Taggart said the company’s application for the wage subsidy was supported and endorsed by the New Zealand Meat Workers Union. . .

Soil carbon influences climate, farm productivity– Professor Louis Schipper:

In the first of three articles about soil carbon, Prof Louis Schipper from the University of Waikato explains why soil carbon matters to farmers, what influences it and what we currently know about carbon stocks in New Zealand’s pastoral soils.

Soil carbon is one of the most talked-about subjects in agriculture. 

That’s not surprising because carbon-rich soils support vigorous crop and pasture growth, and may be more resilient to stressors such as drought.

Changes in soil carbon stocks over time might also affect the climate.  . . 

Sheep farmers ask industries to make wool ‘first choice’:

Sheep producers are encouraging industries to make wool their choice of fibre as a campaign gets underway to highlight its natural qualities.

The sheep sector is celebrating the start of Wool Week (5 October – 18) today, and farmers are calling on politicians and green activists to back British wool.

The annual event aims to put a spotlight on wool’s natural performance qualities and ecological benefits.

The sector is keen to highlight the fact that fabrics such as polyester, nylon and acrylic are all forms of plastic and make up about 60% of the material that makes up clothes worldwide. . . 


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.


Soil carbon could be a washout

05/02/2010

It was a desire for a better business not fears of global warming which prompted Australia farmer Cam McKellar to start producing humified compost which captures carbon and stores it in the soil.

“It’s about increasing the fertility of the soil, improving yields and producing better-quality food,” says Mr McKellar, who runs a 1200ha corn and mixed-crop farm at Spring Ridge, 100km southwest of Tamworth in northeast NSW.

However, farmers in Australia and New Zealand are asking if soil carbon could be used to offset Kyoto liabilities.

The cost and difficulty of measuring soil carbon counts against it and there is another catch to claiming credits for soil carbon .

If there was a flood and the soil got washed away farmers would face a huge carbon liability on top of the costs associated with the flood.


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