Monday, April 22, 2024

Govt to partner with farmers on new emissions plan

Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins and Agriculture Minister, Damien O’Connor, have announced a suite of measures – including a new greenhouse gas testing facility – to support farmers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining their global competitive edge.

Prime Minister Hipkins said the Government’s goal is to partner with farmers to ensure New Zealand retains its brand as a low emissions, environment friendly source of food and fibre.

“Farmers can’t do it all on their own and agriculture is too important for the Government not to be investing in better environmental outcomes. We want the best price for the best products, produced by the best farmers in the word – and our plan is working,” Mr Hipkins said.

“More and more people are choosing to buy products that come from a place where animals are treated well, there is a low impact on the environment and production contributes minimally to global emissions.”

He said New Zealand farmers were already well placed to meet that demand, and the new package of measures was about the Government being at the table to help them do even better.

“Markets like Europe and the UK, where we’re signing new trade deals, are the perfect places to get greater value for the products we’re exporting.”

“These investments in further research and development will make our farms more resilient, improve pasture productivity and reduce emissions, while also ensuring there is a local support network to help farmers right now,” Mr Hipkins said.

Minister O’Connor said New Zealand’s primary producers made over $53 billion dollars in export earnings for the first time ever last year – and the sector was set to reach new heights again this year.

“Lifting our sustainability credentials and lowering our emissions profile will be key to future-proofing the industry and cementing a path towards continued export growth,” he said. 

“Today’s announcement, alongside industry, sees $17.7 million go towards the construction of a new greenhouse gas testing facility that will provide the permanent measuring equipment and facilities needed to support our emissions reduction plan without burdening farmers.”

The facility is funded by the Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions, its primary sector joint venture partners, and AgResearch. Massey University in Palmerston North will supply land for the facility and cattle for testing. The new-build will include 12 respiration chambers which allow researchers to measure and monitor changes to methane emissions in individual cows.

This latest project follows recent joint venture investments of $2.5 million to further work on a livestock methane vaccine, and a $1.8 million boost to develop a slow-released methane-inhibiting capsule.

“The Government is also backing two new pasture projects with $4.3 million co-invested with industry through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund looking at soil and grass to help farmers reduce costs, maintain good pastures, and remain a world-leading sustainable producer of high value food,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Extreme weather like repeated droughts, or the severe weather we’ve seen this year can wreak havoc on pasture and it can be slow to recover. The ‘Digging deeper: Roots and resilience’ project will test whether extended periods of deferred grazing will encourage pasture roots to grow larger and deeper – which in theory would increase water and nutrient use efficiency, reduce nutrient losses and increase pasture resilience to recover from extremities in the weather.

“The other project, ‘Ensuring a Sustainable Future Pasture Presence in NZ’, will look at increasing the productivity of pasture grass. The new ryegrass pastures under development are expected to increase productivity by around 20 percent, and provide farmers with options to reduce nitrate leaching, increase carbon sequestration and improve water use efficiency.

“Demand for tools and technologies to help mitigate agricultural emissions is only increasing, both here and overseas. New Zealand can, and should, be a leader in this space and Government is investing to ensure that we stay at the cutting edge of research and development. 

“Through our Career Pathways Scheme we’re also backing farmers and growers on-the-ground by supporting the training of more than 40 private farm advisers alongside the establishment of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ On Farm Support team. Helping people take practical steps to reduce on-farm emissions, lift sustainability, adapt to change, and recover from events like Cyclone Gabrielle is important work. 

“The Government’s goal is to support farmers to do what they are already doing even better – and get the best price for it. 

“With record export earnings, unprecedented access through free trade agreements, and New Zealand’s current position at first in the Sustainable Trade Index, our famers are in a strong position. We need to lock in these gains and continue to strive towards a lower emissions sector providing food and fibre for the future.”

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