Friday, December 8, 2023

Reason for agri optimism in NZ, says global food exec

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It has been determined that 40-50% of climate impacts come from the agriculture industry.
NZ might be ‘further along than it thinks in terms of this regenerative agriculture movement’, global food executive Devry Boughner Vorwerk says.
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New Zealand has the potential to be a global leader in its approach to tackling climate emissions, says United States-based global food executive Devry Boughner Vorwerk.

The founder and CEO of DevryBV Sustainable Strategies, Boughner Vorwerk is the keynote speaker at this month’s Rural Leaders Agribusiness Summit in Christchurch.

She has  previously held leadership roles at US red-meat giant Cargill and at Grubhub, a US online and mobile prepared-food ordering and delivery platform.

Boughner Vorwerk is no stranger to NZ’s primary sector, having served on the NZUS Council, working closely with government and industry officials over economic and trade agreements. 

“I’m mindful that I am coming from outside of New Zealand,” Boughner Vorwerk said from her office in Excelsior, Minnesota.    

“I don’t know NZ  like NZ knows NZ.  But I do have my entire career, education and life’s purpose in food and agriculture.

“The message I will bring is a perspective on having been in global agriculture my whole career. And that is a message of change, adaptation and optimism.”

It has been determined that 40-50% of climate impacts come from the agriculture industry and Boughner Vorwerk said it is clear international markets are setting expectations over food production and sustainability.

“I think where NZ is leading is in trying to get a real price-based opportunity for their emissions. That is not coming without a challenge.

“How does NZ  continue to lead while giving adequate transition time for its farmers and industry to adapt?

“My observations from afar is that it’s not easy and there are a lot of natural tensions in the system that come with change.”

However, farmers need to realise it is not just NZ’s government that is applying pressure to reduce emissions. Pressure was also coming from the European Commission and export markets, but she believes NZ’s government is positioning itself to at least continue to compete internationally.

Farmers are required to meet the legislated target to reduce biogenic methane emissions by 10% by 2030 and 24–47% by 2050, relative to the 2017 level.

Those in the US are facing similar issues and the government has provided climate smart commodity grants to help fund the reduction of emissions. 

NZ needs to maintain a “possibility mindset” and accept that change is difficult, but consider what steps are needed to make them.

“If NZ industry wants to maintain its competitiveness as an exporter, it has to move. 

“Because I am optimistic,  and I’ve seen agriculture all around the world, I think NZ is in a  position to lead, frankly.

“The NZ industry, in my mind, has always viewed their opportunity through the lens of competition. They never asked for handouts in the global market place. So if the industry comes together and sets the right plan, provides the right support and transitional mechanism for farmers, the industry will be able to position itself as one of the sustainable leaders in the world.

“Part of that comes from a recognition that NZ might be further along than it thinks in terms of this regenerative agriculture movement.”

Her message to farmers is to not resist change, but lead it.

That could be difficult when farmers are looking at their profitability model and saying this is too hard and they may not be able to make it work.

“It’s not easy. But this is about charting a successful course broadly for the NZ economy. What I know with how we work with New Zealanders around the world, is that I’ve never met a Kiwi who won’t sit down and try to solve a complicated problem.

“New Zealanders are equipped for this.”

The 2023 Rural Leaders Agribusiness Summit will be held in Christchurch on March 27. 

Watch our latest On Farm Story ‘New NZ agritech tracks who’s on-farm, doing what’ below
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