Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Govt backs new $26m farm sustainability study

New Zealand’s largest ever farming sector sustainability study aims to prove to the world why New Zealand food and fibre should be always the number one choice, says Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

“The Government is backing a new $26.1 million programme to undertake the most comprehensive study of pastoral farming in New Zealand,” Mr O’Connor said.

“New Zealand’s economic security depends on our primary sector, which this year earned us a record $53.3 billion in exports. Our future competitive edge in food and fibre will depend on demonstrating our sustainability credentials to ever more discerning consumers.”

The new Whenua Haumanu programme will study the whole pastoral farming system from field to fork.

“It will scientifically build a picture that includes soil biodiversity, pasture performance, animal production and welfare, and the quality of the food produced,” the Minister said.

Whenua Haumanu is being led by Massey University’s School of Agriculture and Environment to enable farmers to make informed decisions on the financial and environmental benefits of adopting regenerative farming practices.

The Government has committed $17.6 million over seven years through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) to fund the partnership.

The programme will involve several research sites and bring together universities, Crown research institutes, and industry groups. Research partners include AgResearch, Lincoln University, and Dairy Trust Taranaki. Additional guidance will be provided by an End User Advisory Group comprised of the pastoral industry, iwi, investment and consumer groups.

“This is the most comprehensive study ever undertaken of our pastoral systems, both conventional and those incorporating regenerative farming practices,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Whenua Haumanu will be part of broader coordinated work that the Government is backing to provide a robust evidence base to explore regenerative farming practices alongside conventional pastoral practices in both dairy cow (cattle) and sheep systems. In doing so it will also test claims that many of our conventional pastoral practices are already regenerative.

“One key aim of the programme is to investigate potential benefits of diverse pastures for grazing animals, as well as regenerative farming practices, as these have yet to be thoroughly studied for the New Zealand farming context.”

Minister O’Connor said establishing an evidence base of regenerative practices is a cornerstone of the sustainability goal in the Government and food and fibre sector’s Fit for a Better World roadmap.

“Through SFF Futures we are co-investing with others in 11 research projects across the country that are evaluating regenerative farming practices. These amount to a total investment of $54.74 million from Government and investment partners, and further research proposals are being assessed by the Ministry for Primary Industries.”

“Developing a sound evidence base for what works well with our soils, climates, and farming systems will aid our efforts to transition to a more sustainable future for our food and fibre sector.

“Purchasing decisions by consumers in our export markets are increasingly being driven by their values. The work by Whenua Haumanu will help New Zealand tell the story of its food production so we can grow exports and deliver economic security,” Mr O’Connor said.

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