Friday, December 1, 2023

Clock running out on HWEN, O’Connor says

Neal Wallace
Urgent need to finalise pricing system for agricultural emissions.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says money raised from pricing agricultural emissions will be invested back into research and development.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Time is running out to finalise a system to price agricultural emissions, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says.

Questions remain about the He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN) industry agreement on reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, chiefly around the level of pricing, how to recognise the various forms of sequestration and creating a single, internationally recognised emissions calculator for farmers to use.

At present there are 11 calculators. 

O’Connor pointed out that legislation putting agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) by default if no alternative mechanism is agreed to means there is an urgent need to finalise a pricing structure.

Money raised from pricing agricultural emissions will be invested back into research and development and O’Connor told Farmers Weekly that will include identifying and recognising on-farm sequestration, including the role of soil.

There is a view that New Zealand’s young soils do not have much capacity to absorb carbon, but O’Connor is of the view that sequestering even small amounts of carbon is possible and worthwhile.

“There is clearly potential but in NZ it is more complex, which is why we need a reliable source of money which HWEN is designed to do, to generate cash for research and development.”

Similarly, the use of plantain, breeding from low-emitting animals and pending technology such as boluses and feed additives will all assist.

“These things all add up to hitting the target of a 10% reduction in methane by 2030.”

O’Connor hopes to announce an update in the next month or two on the development of Freshwater Farm Plans (FWFPs).

The release of these plans, which are an alternative to resource consent for farmers who intensively winter-graze stock, has been delayed.

Farmers Weekly reported recently that Federated Farmers has calculated 24,000 farms and orchards will need to have certified FWFPs within three years.

Pilot FWFPs will be released in Southland and Waikato in August, with these plans having to be certified within 18 months.

Federated Farmers said that by August 2026 farmers with 20ha or more in arable or pastoral use, 5ha of more horticulture or 20ha of more in combined use will require a FWFP, at an estimated cost of $6000 a plan.

Board member Colin Hurst estimated 10,000 farmers have existing farm environment plans that may be able to be adjusted to the new system, but this leaves 24,000 mostly smaller sheep, beef and deer farms will need to prepare FWFPs from scratch.

He questioned how 24,000 FWFPs can be prepared in just 36 months.

O’Connor said FWFPs will have a role in meeting farm assurance plans, including environmental, health and safety and biosecurity standards that most farms will have to meet.

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