Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Why climate matters to New Zealand farmers

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The coordinator of the 2035 Oceania Summit held in Auckland this month provides an introduction to the summit and explains why it is important.
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By Peter Wren-Hilton, 2035 Oceania Summit Coordinator

New Zealand farmers face an avalanche of regulation, rules and legislative time frames to improve on-farm sustainability and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Why?

Nearly half of NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. The main source of agriculture emissions is methane from livestock digestive systems. Yet there is a major irony. NZ dairy farms have the lowest carbon footprint in the world, as confirmed by the latest report from AgResearch.

The report, which was commissioned by DairyNZ, found that NZ’s carbon footprint is 70% lower than the global average and 46% lower than the 17 other countries involved in the study (including all major milk producers).

Regulations are not, however, going away anytime soon. He Waka Eke Noa has submitted recommendations to the government around a pricing mechanism and strategy as an acceptable alternative to joining the emissions trading scheme in 2025. The government will respond before the end of the year. Whatever the outcome, change is coming.

Let’s now flip the coin. Let’s check in with NZ’s global customer. In the past, “premium” was largely defined by taste and texture. Today, we can add “carbon footprint” to the mix. Getting a compelling NZ agriculture story locked in to promote our successes in achieving our carbon footprint’s reduction is critical for the primary sector’s long-term future.

And this is where October’s 2035 Oceania Summit comes in.

Next month’s summit has been designed to identify the technologies and the tools available to help farmers reduce those greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also looking at future growing systems that can assist farmers adapt to more extreme weather events. It’s no surprise that those “once in a hundred years” weather events are now cropping up every couple of years. They are just a foretaste of what’s to come.

On October 10-11, delegations from Australia, the Pacific Islands, the United States and Europe are descending on Auckland. They will hear from 45 local and global experts on how emerging technologies can assist farmers and growers to meet the increasing demands of both the government and those global consumers. We’ll be joined by six Pacific Island agricultural ministers. From the US, California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross will be leading a major delegation of US-based growers. They are not here just to speak to politicians and government officials. They collectively want to talk to NZ farmers and growers and learn more. It’s your opportunity to tell your story.

Over the past few months, the summit has been working with AgriHQ, the publishers of Dairy Farmer and Farmers Weekly, to encourage farmers and growers to attend the summit to meet and engage with these international delegations. Sharing your story will go a long way to dismissing some of those offshore myths that we are all too often exposed to. And while you engage with other delegates at the summit, Peter Gordon, acclaimed NZ chef and author, will be curating two days of exceptional conference food focusing on some the best produce NZ has to offer.

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