Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Fairness for farmers is key, says DairyNZ

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Farmer director bemoans the uncertainty affecting the sector.
DairyNZ farmer director Colin Glass says while farmers may not necessarily agree with what’s being done, they do need to agree with the direction of travel.
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Emissions pricing is an issue that affects all of New Zealand, and while that includes farmers, they rightly want just recognition for what they are doing, DairyNZ farmer director Colin Glass says.

Any agriculture emissions pricing system must be fair and equitable for farmers, he said.

“The primary sector is committed to playing its part in addressing climate change.

“Farmers accept responsibility but they need to be assured proper science is involved.

“NZ is blazing a trail for other countries, the whole world is watching us. It’s real new stuff and for farmers. There is a high degree of uncertainty,” Glass said.

“It’s really disappointing government took away fundamental aspects in the emission pricing proposal and farmers rightly don’t accept that.”

It undermines the balance and equity He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN) aims to achieve and it is unacceptable for farmers who have made their thoughts very clear, he said.

Areas of concern are significant and wide-ranging, and include price setting, collectives, sequestration, reward and recognition for on-farm planting and governance.

“The government isn’t doing the right thing by farmers. Its emissions pricing proposal is not what farmers said they wanted,

“The government’s proposal differs significantly from the HWEN recommendations co-designed by primary sector partners.”

The differences undermine farmer confidence.

“Uncertainty has amped up quite significantly.

“Farmers are worried the proposal will have dire implications for them, their businesses, towns and communities.”

The proposal limits the recognition and reward farmers will get for on-farm planting.

“This will not encourage farmers to continue environmental initiatives.

“This is an important issue to get right because farmers are our food producers and must be treated fairly.”

NZ needs to stay competitive in the global environment.

“We totally get that farmers need to do their bit and not be seen to be doing too little and risk licence to operate.”

Research & development is a massive aspect for farmers and the government has removed some areas of recycling the levy into R&D.

Initially a good portion of the money earned through the farm level levy was ring-fenced for investment back into R&D. 

That is a key aspect for delivering on the target at the end of the day.

“NZ farmers are already world leading, they want to manage their extremities. We are solutions driven and that’s why the farm level levy is so important.

“NZ is in a grassroots setting to the rest of the world because we are unique and that means we need to do a fair chunk of our own research as we need solutions that will work with our farm systems. R&D is a massive aspect for us.”

Glass said the government’s response to HWEN has missed the mark to the extent it places the financial burden on the farming community and removes the ability for agriculture to have a say in its own sustainable future.

HWEN remains the preferred solution to managing and pricing agriculture emissions given that the government’s model leads to a methane price that will convert land away from pastoral farming.   

HWEN focuses on setting prices to create a circular fund for sequestered carbon, mitigations technology and other incentives to help reduce emissions on farm and aimed to incentivise change using levy revenue to alter behaviours and enable technical advancement.

“This is not going to end anytime soon. 

“This is a long, long journey; we need farmer buy-in and support.

“If you put in roadblocks along the way you disincentivise farmers, demotivate them, and while they may not necessarily agree with what’s being done, they do need to agree with the direction of travel.

“If it’s fractured in any way it won’t deliver on the outcome we are seeking on the journey.

“We need farmers to stay united, the science is still developing targets that need to be continually reviewed and we need farmers at the table.

“Farmers need to feel part of the journey, gain confidence and hear their voice matters.”

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