Thursday, April 25, 2024

Fonterra’s ‘ambitious’ on-farm targets met with cautious support

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But perhaps re-think ‘Scope 3’ as a name for 2030 goals, says farmer.
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Despite being confused by the name of Fonterra’s Scope 3 efficiency target, Te Aroha dairy farmer Stuart King is in support of doing what it takes to meet customer requirements.

Fonterra announced at its annual meeting on Thursday the plan to reduce their emissions intensity 30% by 2030.

The ambitious targets are designed using the internationally recognised and independent science-based target that sets out to help companies establish clearly defined and scientifically robust plans to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement goals.

Farmers are cautiously optimistic about where the targets have landed but heartened to hear that Fonterra will work with them, not against them.

Achieving target will rely very much on farmer goodwill as at this stage there are no incentives offered.

“But neither is there a stick and for me. I am 66, still milking my own cows, I go to every Fonterra meeting that I can, as it’s important because that’s my business,” King said.

“We own the cows to the customer and a big part of the business is with Fonterra.

“Ask me about Scope 3 and I am a bit confused. As a name it means nothing to me but talk about market requirements and that means everything to my business.

“This Scope 3 needs a new name to reflect what it means to me as a farmer.”

While no farmer likes getting lumped with ongoing regulation, King said it is important to appreciate what Fonterra is doing to ensure sustainability into the future.

“None of us like these new regulations but like everything it’s how we manage it as I don’t think it’s an option and hiding your head in the sand is not an option either.

“It would be nice to think the solutions could be financially rewarding for those who make changes but I guess meantime their [Fonterra’s] approach is ‘We are here to help you’,” King said.

Fonterra has chosen to set an efficiency target that focuses on the amount of methane produced per kilogram of milk solids, which means it won’t push farmers to reduce production.

Canterbury dairy farmer John Donkers said it has to be noted that the 30% is a company target.

“The on-farm component of the target doesn’t seem too overly onerous, but the time we have to do this is important.

“Every farm will have to do their bit but how that will happen is not yet clear.

Farm Insights reports will help identify the opportunities on each individual farm.

“Above all this, and to achieve these targets, we need a more accurate and single industry ag-sector model,” Donkers said.

Federated Farmers president Wayne Langford said while a 30% reduction in the next seven years will undoubtedly be challenging, it’s important to look at how the target is broken down and the plan Fonterra has to work with farmers to achieve it.

The pathway set is a 7% reduction through farming best practice, including feed quality and herd performance with a further 7% reduction through application of new technologies.

An 8% reduction is set through carbon removals and from existing and new vegetation and another 8% reduction in historical land use change.

While everyone will have opportunities for efficiency gains, the action plan will look different for each farm. 

“When you break it down the target does seem much more achievable.

“Make no mistake, though, it’s still incredibly ambitious and won’t be easy.

“This can’t simply be a case of setting a goal and telling farmers they have to meet it,” Langford said.  

Fonterra chair Peter McBride acknowledged there is no one solution to reducing on-farm emissions.

“We need to approach this farm by farm, but we all have work to do.

“It is a confronting number but as the saying goes, there is only one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.”

He said achieving the target will require a combination of sharing best farming practices and technology to reduce emissions.

“It is our biggest opportunity and our biggest challenge.

“There is significant variation within and across farming systems when it comes to emissions per kilogram of milk solids.

“We are confident we can make solid progress towards our target by working together and sharing information farmer to farmer.” 

The reduction target is based on the 2018 baseline so the good work farmers have already done in this area will count, McBride said.

“The co-op’s approach will be to work alongside farmers, not against them, as we collectively make progress towards our target, including investing in methane reduction technologies.”

Fonterra’s methodology will continue to evolve alongside the science that supports the changes.

“The strongest motivating forces are offshore and from my perspective are both geopolitical and commercial in nature.

“Sustainability and emissions are also the new trade barriers. We could essentially be locked out of some of out most valuable markets if we cannot demonstrate emissions reductions.”

The other main commercial driver is access to funding and capital for both the co-op and its individual farming businesses.

Despite the very real challenges the industry faces this season, the longer-term outlook for New Zealand dairy remains positive, McBride said.

In Focus:  Fonterra farmers the focus of emissions plan

Fonterra has revealed its plan to reduce on-farm emissions by 30% by 2030. Bryan unpacks the plan with Federated Farmers dairy chair Richard McIntyre (skip to the 20:10 minute mark). 

In this week’s feature interview, MyFarm boss Andrew Watters talks about what he calls the third wave of land-use change and the options available to farmers looking to diversify their income (skip to the 8:50 minute mark).

And Richard Rennie reflects on his day on farm with a Bay of Plenty catchment group and talks about how Sir John might be the key Zespri is looking for as it deals with unlicensed SunGold fruit being grown in China (skip to the 1:20 minute mark).

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