Thursday, April 25, 2024

Northland’s E350 turns to sustainability

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Northland’s provincial extension programme for the pastoral industries, E350, finishes next June and the organisers are looking at what comes next for the network. Building environmental sustainability within agriculture has been one of three main planks in E350, project manager Luke Beehre says.
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Northland's provincial extension programme for the pastoral industries, E350, finishes next June and the organisers are looking at what comes next for the network.

Building environmental sustainability within agriculture has been one of three main planks in E350, project manager Luke Beehre says.

For the past 18 months E350 has facilitated discussions among farm consultants and Northland representatives of industry organisations about He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN), regional regulations and central government legislation.

Rural professionals have a big part to play in the transition to more sustainability, both in their own understanding and their influence on farmers.

Beehre says E350 and the regional development agency Northland Inc have demonstrated ability to foster collaboration within the primary sector in the province for a common purpose.

“So much stuff is coming at farmers, so how do rural professionals decide what is important enough to take to their farmers’ kitchen tables to equip and empower them?” Beehre asked.

“Change is not coming, it’s here now, driven by the expectations of society.

“Our customers say, ‘we want products that have these qualities’, so as a sector how do we best respond?”

While some regulations may look far away, exclusion fencing and land-use changes are not going to happen quickly and may need several seasons or years to introduce.

Beehre was adamant that the environmental sustainability focus was within the spirit and structure of E350 and its design for provincial extension.

“We can take the work of the Northland Agricultural Research Farm, for example, and give it much greater reach,” he said.

He says rural professionals were aware of farmer fatigue with regulatory change and that the structure of E350 was a way of multiplying effectiveness in messages, resources and consultation.

Northland Regional Council land management officers and policy drafters spoke to over 50 rural professionals during a webinar about work in progress on implementing the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater.

These include freshwater farm plans, limits on intensification, caps on nitrogen use and livestock exclusion rules.

Northland’s sustainable dairy adviser for Fonterra, Helen Moodie, summarised the work being undertaken through HWEN.

She says it was an alternative to livestock and fertiliser emissions being priced through the Emissions Trading Scheme in a one-size-fits-all manner.

“There isn’t a choice over having pricing or not, but pay at the processor level or design something that will work better for the pastoral sector,” Moodie said.

“Doing nothing is not an option.”

HWEN is an opportunity to get methane treated differently to other greenhouse gases and to get revenue generated returned to the sector to reduce emissions.

“This is not about pricing our farmers to oblivion, but incentivising change to maintain a sustainable pastoral sector,” she said.

Moodie says more details on a proposed pricing framework to incentivise reduction of GHG emissions should be released before the end of the year.

Farmer consultation meetings are proposed for February.

She urged farm advisors to familiarise themselves and help their clients get prepared for GHG emissions pricing from 2025.

“We can meet the emission reduction commitments and still have profitable farm businesses … but only if we start the change now,” she said.

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