Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced last week the government’s final $370 million plan to help New Zealand farmers reduce their emissions.
According to the minister, the new emissions reduction plan will “future-proof” the country’s agricultural sector.
O’Connor said the plan supports farmers’ transition to lower-emission practices, helps secure their future export growth, and works alongside other climate policies to continue reducing emissions.
The plan follows a five-year-long process during which O’Connor said the government worked closely with farming leaders to finalise the recent announcement.
“Future export growth for our food and fibre products will depend on demonstrating their sustainability credentials. The decisions announced today set out a path that gives farmers certainty and addresses the ever-strengthening market signals from overseas on climate,” O’Connor said.
“Nestle, the single biggest customer of our biggest company, Fonterra, has committed to a 50 per cent reduction of scopes 1, 2 and 3 emissions by 2030. Many more companies have similar targets. This is a tectonic shift in our export markets, meaning our farmers will have to reduce their emissions in order to sell to them.”
The new plan will see mandatory reporting of farm-level emissions starting in the last quarter of 2024.
However, Federated Farmers president David Hayes is calling the new plan “ill-timed”, because he believes now isn’t the right time to weigh down food and fibre producers and processors, and the regional economies that are so dependent on them.
“Our July national survey has shown farmer confidence in general economic conditions is at the lowest it has been since 2009 when we started the twice-a-year survey,” Hayes said.
“Lamb prices have dropped 25 per cent in the past 12 months, and the milk price forecast has tumbled several times, putting it below breakeven for most dairy farmers.”
Hayes said Wairarapa farmers are already low carbon emitters. “Pasture-based systems and on-farm sequestration with forestry and native regeneration offer benefits compared to farming internationally.
“When the government announced last year a $300m fund over four years to research and develop new tools and technology to reduce on-farm emissions, Wairarapa Federated Farmers was very supportive.
“The global atmosphere does not benefit from New Zealand’s shrinking food production,” Hayes argued.
“Our farms’ emissions footprint is world-leading in terms of kilograms of meat and milk produced; forgone production here would just shift offshore to high-emission farming systems.”
Public consultation on the plan is still open, and ends on September 6, 2023.