Wednesday, April 24, 2024

SFF outlines regen ag criteria

Neal Wallace
Most livestock suppliers will satisfy Silver Fern Farms’ (SFF) regenerative agriculture requirements by recording and monitoring their farm activities. There will be no need to plant a seed smorgasbord pasture, as adopted by some regen systems, but meeting the requirements of the pending Farm Assurance Programme-Plus (NZFAP-Plus) production assurance standards will suffice for most suppliers.
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Most livestock suppliers will satisfy Silver Fern Farms’ (SFF) regenerative agriculture requirements by recording and monitoring their farm activities.

There will be no need to plant a seed smorgasbord pasture, as adopted by some regen systems, but meeting the requirements of the pending Farm Assurance Programme-Plus (NZFAP-Plus) production assurance standards will suffice for most suppliers.

SFF chief customer officer David Courtney says NZFAP-Plus is being launched on October 1, but the transition to meet those standards does not need to be immediate but phased in over a period.

“It’s all about setting the direction of travel,” Courtney said.

NZFAP-Plus provides assurance of integrity, traceability, biosecurity, food safety, environmental sustainability and animal health, welfare, farm environment and people.

Courtney says some subtle changes may be required, but he estimated 60% of farming practices already met those standards, with the remaining 40% requiring measurement and recording.

The requirements will also include elements with the pending He Waka Eke Noa, the industry-wide agreement to measure and address agricultural greenhouse gas emissions along with biodiversity.

“You bring that back to regenerative agricultural definitions,” he said.

Courtney says the company’s move to regenerative farming systems mirrors changing consumer demands.

“Consumers are saying they like regenerative agriculture, what it stands for, that it is kind on the environment, leaves land in better condition and they see it as the future of farming,” he said.

The European Union and UK are both signalling that they intend including environmental stewardship clauses in free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations under way with NZ.

SFF describes regenerative agriculture as a broad range of land-use practices which focus on regenerating topsoil, while also improving water quality, building plant biodiversity and respecting animal welfare.

SFF has adopted eight principles: reducing a farm’s carbon footprint; improving soil health; improving plant and insect biodiversity; improving water quality; conserving and restoring natural water bodies; improving the health and productivity of farm eco-systems; having the highest standards of animal welfare; and ensuring farmers and rural communities are nurtured, developed and sustained.

Prior to committing to the regenerative programme, suppliers were surveyed on the practicality of those farming systems and standards without using the word regenerative.

“The vast majority accept these as part of the current farming system,” he said.

“What we have done is packaged, or described it, a bit differently.”

SFF will work with the US-based Savoury Institution’s Land to Market Accreditation, a leading accreditation body for regenerative agriculture.

It is not a case of applying US farming systems, he says, but both parties learning how to apply the philosophy to NZ.

“We’ve decided that rather than wait for the perfect answer, we’re just going to get on and do it,” he said.

While qualifying products could earn premium prices, SFF agribusiness strategic solutions manager Greg McSkimming says just as importantly those claims will help NZ meat keep pace with consumer demand and help pricing stay at the premium end of the market.

He says it will also add to the existing promises made in the SFF-branded product.

“There is no doubt consumer’s thinking has changed about what they are eating; they want assurances across things like climate change,” McSkimming said.

Reaction from SFF suppliers has varied from ‘about time’ to reluctance, but McSkimming says greater regulation and compliance was imminent for farmers, which will take most well on the way to meeting the company’s regenerative requirements.

SFF is helping that process by launching a pilot programme with a small number of suppliers to measure greenhouse gas emissions.

Once the proof of concept has been made, the process will be expanded.

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