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Carbon certification opens opportunities

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A pilot farm carbon certification programme will help farmers sell their products in high-end markets and get them ahead of the game with regard to future climate change regulations, a North Canterbury farmer says.
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Caroline Read | August 25, 2020 from GlobalHQ on Vimeo.

Stonyhurst Partnership’s Charles Douglas-Clifford, one of a handful of farmers who piloted Toitu Envirocare’s new farm carbon certification programme, says carbon emissions management and certification will become a standard requirement in the future and the new tools being introduced by Toitu will help farmers utilise information they are already collecting.

The programme has taken the government-owned environmental certifications provider’s already tested carbon reduction and certification programmes for commerce and industry and tailored them to develop New Zealand’s first carbon certification programme for pastoral farmers, which will allow farmers to verify claims about carbon emissions.

It uses Toitu’s emissions tracking software and utilises greenhouse gas (GHG) and carbon stock analyses from OverseerFM to compile plans tailored to individual farms.

Douglas-Clifford says in the future carbon certification will become part and parcel of what farmers do, as it will be expected by consumers.

“This is an important tool to justify producing and marketing a premier product,” he said.

“This is where we need to be pitching – branching away from commodities and pitching our meat, wool and grain to the top echelon – top-end products that get a top price.

“Going forward, whether or not you agree (with future carbon regulations), they’re going to become a requirement for primary producers if they want to sell an elite product and get into those markets,” he said.

Douglas-Clifford says using Toitu’s online platform has helped him better understand his carbon footprint, which helps with on-farm decision-making.

He can see where he sits during the farming year, so can make informed changes along the way.

Signing up to the carbon certification programme is also an opportunity for farmers to at least get themselves in a good position, if not influence the rules, ahead of future Government regulations around carbon emissions and how they can be met, rather than sit back and wait for someone else’s rules to be forced on them.

Douglas-Clifford says his involvement in the pilot was because he was already trying to better understand his carbon footprint but he encourages others who have not gone down that path yet to have a look themselves.

“We don’t really know exactly where we’re going yet, but I would really encourage people to get a better idea of where their farm positioning is,” he said.

Along with Overseer, the programme involves an audit and assurance partner AsureQuality, with support from Beef+Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).

Toitu Envirocare strategy and partnerships general manager Steve Dixon says NZ farmers outperform others around the world and the certification will allow them to quantify and verify their individual carbon emissions performance.

“Carbon emission reduction on farms is a new science,” he said. 

“It is different for every farm, every soil type and every climate.”

Given OverseerFM is already used by thousands of pastoral farmers, Dixon says integrating Toitu’s programme with it was a huge advantage.

Overseer chief executive Caroline Read says supporting the new certification programme was an easy choice. 

“We are constantly looking at ways Overseer can support farmers seeking value-add opportunities from understanding and improving their farm sustainability,” she said.

“Marrying a system that can provide detailed analysis of emissions sources and reduction scenarios with an internationally recognised carbonzero certification programme provides NZ farmers with more opportunities to demonstrate their value on the world stage.”

AsureQuality chief executive John McKay says the programme is a natural and important extension of the assurance work it already delivers across the country and its staff have begun talking to farmers about how it works and what its benefits are.

“We have walked farmers through the system from end-to-end in about 40 minutes, including loading OverseerFM GHG emission analyses,” he said.

“Most efficient farmers will have easy access to the information they need to meet certification.”

The programme costs $1500 a year for membership, plus $2095 for the first year’s audit and certification. The cost of audit and certification drops in the second and third year as they will be conducted remotely. 

There is currently an introductory membership price of $1000.

How the Toitu programme works

•Farmers who sign on to the carbon certification programme create a carbon reduction plan using Toitu’s farm emanage software tool.

•The plan is informed by OverseerFM GHG analysis and the carbon stock tool for sequestration potential.

•Guidance on how to make reductions, with links to external information sources, is built into the Toitu tool.

•Certification will enable farmers to quantify and verify their performance regarding carbon emissions.a

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