Survey finds greater farmer focus on sustainability and climate change

New survey research, released today, shows farmers are focused on sustainability and the impacts of climate change more than ever.

The survey, by Nielsen Research, was commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries through the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change Research programme.

“These latest results show that 92 percent of farmers are focused on making their farm more environmentally sustainable, up from 78 percent in the last survey of 2009. That’s really heartening”, says Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

“Some of the specific actions farmers mentioned were riparian/shelter planting, waterway control, improved fertiliser management and more efficient irrigation systems. This gives us a really valuable understanding of what is front of mind for farmers.

“Slightly disheartening is that only 23 percent of farmers anticipate an increased focus on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in the next five years, so that’s something for us all to work on.’’

Minister for Climate Change James Shaw says the results of the survey are consistent with expectations.

“The survey shows that farmers have a better understanding of what they are able to do on-farm to be more environmentally sustainable, with the exception of greenhouse gas emissions reduction – an area where we know farmers feel they need more information and advice.

“The Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG) report told us that there are lots of solutions emerging, but that the situation varies from farm-to-farm and so solutions need to be tailored.

“That’s why we are now investing in developing that advice and integrated farm planning tools. We need to support farmers and growers to transition to sustainable land-use through planning and informed decision-making.

“Last year the government consulted on the Zero Carbon Bill, which showed the need to give certainty and direction on the pathway to a low-emissions economy. We will also soon receive the recommendations of the Interim Climate Change Committee on addressing agricultural emissions. This will help us move forward and provide the certainty that will enable rural communities to make long-term decisions,” Minister Shaw says.

Minister O’Connor says farmers face a changing climate.

“They need to prepare to cope with the intensifying weather effects of climate change and at the same time reduce their environmental footprint – that takes investment in infrastructure, and means you need to be financially viable.

“The Coalition Government is scoping the development of resources and information for farmers to fill the knowledge gap in ways to reduce emissions, working with the sector to develop practical on-farm knowledge.”

The full report is available on the MPI website.

Key statistics

92% focus on making their farms more environmentally sustainable. Specific actions mentioned show an increase, notably riparian/shelter planting, waterway control, improved fertiliser management and more efficient irrigation systems (up from 78% in 2009).

63% of farmers express interest in further information or advice about improving resilience to climate change. Managing severe weather events such as droughts, floods, and harsh winters is most commonly mentioned.

Half of farmers think their farm and business is moderately or majorly impacted by current climate or severe weather patterns – this has not changed since 2009 (52% vs 51%). But the proportion of farmers reporting no impact at all has halved, from 19% to 10%.

59% anticipate a moderate or major impact over the next 20 years.

46% saying that clear government policy guidelines will help them take action.

27% of farmers have placed a moderate or major focus on reducing their GHG emissions in the past 5 years (compared with 31% doing so in 2009).   

46% of farmers have actively sought information about land management practices or climate change issues in the last 12 months than in 2009 (down from 62%).  

58% said financial assistance, incentives or subsidies are most likely to encourage action to make their farms more environmentally sustainable. Seeing initiatives work on other farms/businesses similar to theirs increases farmer confidence that actions will be effective.

Source:  Minister of Agriculture;  Minister for Climate Change

The BERG report: ministers welcome agricultural sector’s work on emissions

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Climate Change Minister James Shaw have welcomed the report of the Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG), which has been released today.

The report shows many farmers want to take action to reduce emissions, but need more information about what steps they can take.

It also shows if all farmers operated using today’s best practice, New Zealand may be able to reduce emissions by up to 10%. Continued funding for research into new, novel technologies will be important for reducing emissions further.

The Biological Emissions Reference Group Report is the culmination of two years of research into the opportunities, costs and barriers to reducing biological emissions in New Zealand’s primary industries.

The group is a joint agriculture industry-government working group of nine key organisations: Beef + Lamb NZ, DairyNZ, Deer Industry NZ, Federated Farmers, The Fertiliser Association of NZ, Fonterra, HortNZ, Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), and Ministry for the Environment (MfE).

In essence, BERG has looked at what lowering emissions means for the primary sector, said Damien O’Connor.

He thanked the group for taking on the challenge to help answer some big questions and said it had provided a comprehensive range of findings, from farmers’ perceptions of climate change through to views on the likelihood of new technologies being available to reduce emissions in future.

James Shaw said a key finding is that, overall, biological emissions in the future could potentially be reduced 10 – 21% by 2030 and – 48% by 2050.

That offered real hope to farmers and agricultural businesses which wanted to reduce emissions while maintaining productivity and profitability.

“It also offers real hope to a world that needs to expand food production for a growing global population but also needs to bring down climate pollution at the same time,” Mr Shaw said.

And it highlights the importance of clear government policies so farmers can make well-informed decisions about

Penny Nelson, deputy director general policy and trade at MPI, said the group saw the need for a good evidence base to support the sector to address some key climate challenges.

“Farmers were asking what practical things they can do to reduce their emissions. We needed to improve our shared understanding of the possible innovation and solutions, and the barriers standing in farmers’ way.”

Cheryl Barnes, deputy secretary, water and climate change at MFE, said it’s great that the agricultural sectors and government are working in partnership to provide information to inform discussion on these important issues.

The reference group commissioned nine new research projects. The work has already informed advice to the government on options for the 2050 emissions target, and will feed into future planning and policy. It has also been used by the Productivity Commission, the Interim Climate Change Committee, and industry.

The BERG plans to host an event in early 2019 to discuss the analysis and findings in more depth.

Source:  Ministers of Agriculture and Climate Change

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog

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