Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Govt releases farm environment plan guidelines

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The Government has released a new framework for farm environment plans (FEPs), designed to reduce compliance and cut costs to farmers and growers.
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Called the Good Farm Planning Principles Guide, it provides guidance for how farmers can organise their business operations and help New Zealand meet significant environmental challenges and market opportunities.

“The guide is the gateway to an integrated farm planning approach; that is, each farmer looking at their farm as a whole, from soils to staff, and from emissions to EBIT,” Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said.

The guide has been developed by the Integrated Farm Planning Steering Group, comprised of senior representatives from farming industry organisations, councils, Māori agribusiness representatives and government.

The group has drawn from the existing planning programmes of the agriculture and horticulture sectors, as well as current regulatory frameworks such as health and safety.

O’Connor says the guide is the first step and puts in place baselines to help people combine and improve their existing farm planning, so they are ready for the change that is coming.

The group will continue to work with industry to align their plans with the new guidelines. That will be in place by the end of 2021, and a significant step in a programme of work that will go into 2022.

“Once fully rolled out, 40,000 farmers and growers will be equipped to add value to their produce by demonstrating to markets their stewardship of the land and livestock,” he said.

Over the next six months, companies and industry groups will assess their programmes against the new framework to identify areas where updates may be necessary.

Fonterra’s on-farm excellence general manager Mat Cullen says there appeared to be nothing in the Government’s framework that would prompt the co-operative to have to review its Tiaki programme, which offered FEPs for its suppliers.

Beef + Lamb NZ chief executive Sam McIvor says its levy-funded plan covered much of the Government’s new guidance on integrated farm planning.

“The Government has published this guidance on integrated farm planning to encourage the simplification and streamlining of farm planning,” McIvor said.

“We agree with the principle and we’re working with other industry organisations and the commercial sector to minimise the effort required by farmers and avoid duplication for farmers who have multiple enterprises, such as beef, dairy, arable and horticulture. 

“It is important for farmers to know that this guidance is non-regulatory.”

Fruit and vegetable growers can also meet the new guidelines through adopting Horticulture New Zealand’s Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) programmes.

“The farm planning principles and requirements announced by the Agriculture Minister today largely mirror existing GAP plans, which are integrated farming planning programmes,” HortNZ president Barry O’Neil said.

“That said, as an industry, we will be reviewing our GAP programmes to see if there are any areas that we need to strengthen.”

O’Neil says in most cases, growers are ahead of the game and already meeting new requirements.

“However, further changes to growing practices will be required over the next decade,” he said.

“To support this, what’s important is government investment in research and development to ensure we have the tools to succeed so New Zealand growers can lead the world in climate change mitigation and adaption.”

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