Farmers welcome ag plans

National’s plans to meet climate targets and unlock bans on technology to help meet them were welcomed by Rural NZ at Fieldays 2023.

Catching up with some of the 105,000 visitors to this year’s 55th event was proof positive that the path to reducing ag emissions and reach climate goals, without closing down NZ’s biggest export earning sector, is the right one.

Food producers were pleased to see our common sense approach to meeting NZ’s climate obligations.

For me and others, Fieldays is the true barometer of how our pastoral and arable communities view political policy.

As National has said many times, we believe NZ can reach Net Zero by 2050 through science and technology, not less production.

But we need to keep our global commitments in perspective as we contribute only 0.2% to global emissions.

While the emissions numbers are continually debated, it’s claimed that almost half of NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture.

So the path to reducing them, when we are already the world’s most emission efficient farmers and not decimate the industry, is a major long-term challenge.

To date there is no technology widely available in NZ to reduce methane emissions.
But charging farmers right now isn’t the solution.

Any costs lumped on farmers will push food prices even higher or send production overseas. The very food producers feeding both us and 40 million people we supply globally, right now.

To that end National is proposing to remove the ban on gene editing (GE) and genetic modification (GM) to help give farmers a wider range of tools they need to reduce them. Human embryonic GE or GM will not be allowed.

We have already created GM grasses in NZ labs which would greatly reduce our emissions, but our restrictive, outdated rules mean no GE crops can be grown here.

Tools like methane inhibitor ‘Bovaer’, used in 30 other countries, has the potential to lower livestock emissions by 30% but faces a four-year approval process in NZ.

While we are yet to have full discussions with the organic/GE-free sector, National will need to discuss streamlining approval of GE and GM so as to allow continuation of these types of products.

We will also recognise on-farm sequestration allowing landowners to earn carbon credits and recognise other forms of carbon capture besides trees, like wetlands restoration.

We’ll introduce limits for farm to forest conversions to stop the loss of valuable agricultural land, as well as a moratorium on whole farm conversions to exotic forestry on high quality land from 2024.

Our emissions reductions policy will also target energy, transport and industry and we’ve already announced our Electrify NZ policy to double renewable energy.

With 40% of our emissions from transport and energy, switching these sectors to clean energy, could deliver almost a third of the total emission reductions.

New Zealand is in danger of being left behind our neighbours Australia and other countries in the European Union if we do not embrace new technology and advance the switch to renewable clean energy forms.

Post-October 14, we’d like the chance to do that.