Environment investments support New Zealand’s high value exports

The Government has announced a suite of measures to support farmers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions while also maintaining their global competitive edge

The announcement was made jointly by Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced today.

They highlighted these points:

  • $17.7 million for new greenhouse gas testing and research facility
  • $4.3 million invested in soil and grass research, including a faster hybrid breeding system for ryegrass to increase pasture resilience
  • Boosting on-the-ground help and advice for farmers and growers through Career Pathways Scheme
  • Locking in New Zealand’s record $53 billion export revenue, and aspiring for more

Mr Hipkins said the Government’s goal was to partner with farmers to ensure New Zealand retains its brand as a low-emissions, environment-friendly source of food and fibre.

“Farmers can’t do it all on their own and agriculture is too important for the Government not to be investing in better environmental outcomes,” he said.

“We want the best price for the best products, produced by the best farmers in the word – and our plan is working.”

Mr Hipkins said more and more people were choosing to buy products from a place where animals were treated well, there was a low impact on the environment and production contributed minimally to global emissions.

“New Zealand farmers are already well placed to meet that demand, and this package is about the Government being at the table to help them do even better,” he said.

“Markets like Europe and the UK, where we’re signing new trade deals, are the perfect places to get greater value for the products we’re exporting.

“These investments in further research and development will make our farms more resilient, improve pasture productivity and reduce emissions, while also ensuring there is a local support network to help farmers right now.”

Damien O’Connor said the country’s primary producers earned more than $53 billion in export earnings for the first time ever last year – and the sector is set to reach new heights again this year.

“Lifting our sustainability credentials and lowering our emissions profile will be key to future-proofing the industry and cementing a path towards continued export growth,” he said.

The latest announcement, alongside industry, will result in $17.7 million going towards the construction of a new greenhouse gas testing facility that will provide the permanent measuring equipment and facilities needed to support the Government’s emissions reduction plan without burdening farmers, Mr O’Connor said.

The facility is funded by the Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions, its primary sector joint venture partners, and AgResearch.

Massey University in Palmerston North will supply land for the facility and cattle for testing. The new-build will include 12 respiration chambers which allow researchers to measure and monitor changes to methane emissions in individual cows.

This latest project follows recent joint venture investments of $2.5 million to further work on a livestock methane vaccine, and a $1.8 million boost to develop a slow-released methane-inhibiting capsule.

The Government is also backing two new pasture projects with $4.3 million co-invested with industry through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund looking at soil and grass to help farmers reduce costs, maintain good pastures, and remain a world-leading sustainable producer of high value food.

“Extreme weather like repeated droughts, or the severe weather we’ve seen this year can wreak havoc on pasture and it can be slow to recover,” Mr O’Connor said.

“The ‘Digging deeper: Roots and resilience’ project will test whether extended periods of deferred grazing will encourage pasture roots to grow larger and deeper – which in theory would increase water and nutrient use efficiency, reduce nutrient losses and increase pasture resilience to recover from extremities in the weather.

“The other project, ‘Ensuring a Sustainable Future Pasture Presence in NZ’, will look at increasing the productivity of pasture grass. The new ryegrass pastures under development are expected to increase productivity by around 20 percent, and provide farmers with options to reduce nitrate leaching, increase carbon sequestration and improve water use efficiency.”

Demand for tools and technologies to help mitigate agricultural emissions is increasing, both here and overseas.

Mr O’Connor said New Zealand can, and should, be a leader and the Government is investing to ensure we stay at the cutting edge of research and development.

“Through our Career Pathways Scheme we’re also backing farmers and growers on-the-ground by supporting the training of more than 40 private farm advisers alongside the establishment of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ On Farm Support team,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Helping people take practical steps to reduce on-farm emissions, lift sustainability, adapt to change, and recover from events like Cyclone Gabrielle is important work.

“The Government’s goal is to support farmers to do what they are already doing even better – and get the best price for it.

“With record export earnings, unprecedented access through free trade agreements, and New Zealand’s current position at first in the Sustainable Trade Index, our famers are in a strong position. We need to lock in these gains and continue to strive towards a lower emissions sector providing food and fibre for the future.”

Source:  Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog