Feds say GM discussion offers solution to GHG challenge

As reports on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions continue to be rolled out, it was the government’s reaction to another report – the Productivity Commission’s recommendations on genetic engineering – that caught Federated Farmers’ attention.

Federation president and climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said farmers were intensely interested in further reducing their world-leading GHG emissions footprint per kilogram of food produced.

But the federation has been saying for several years that new tools are needed to do this.

“Genetic modification is one of those new technologies that offers exciting potential,” he said.

Last year, the Productivity Commission’s ‘Reaching for the Frontier’ final report said the Government should undertake a full review of the regulation of genetic modification (GM), to ensure it is fit for purpose and supports domestic innovation. Continue reading

Pugging and pragmatism – Feds welcome winter grazing proposals but SAFE blasts continuance of “mud farming”

A government announcement on intensive winter grazing regulations  was denounced by the SAFE animal rights group in a statement headed Mud farming continues in the South Island.

Greenpeace struck a similar condemnatory note with a statement headed Backdown on winter grazing rules ‘delaying the inevitable’.  

Greenpeace said winter grazing churns paddocks to deep mud because intensive numbers of stock are confined to small feeding areas for longer than the soil and water can sustain. This mud washes into drains, streams and rivers, posing a risk to human health and the environment.

The Government proposals would change regulations initially designed to give effect to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. These changes include scrapping rules to prevent pugging damage from intensive winter grazing and instead recommending farmers take ‘reasonably practicable’ steps to reduce pugging.

Federated Farmers, on the other hand, headed their press statement Pragmatism finally prevails on winter grazing.

The Government’s press statement was much more in harmony with the feds’ statement than the two others.  It was headed Proposed intensive winter grazing regulations updates are more practical for farmers and began: Continue reading

Farmers’ attention is drawn to draft National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity

Beef + Lamb NZ is encouraging farmers to take an interest in proposals set out in a draft National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity.

There is much in the statement it agrees with, according to a post on the B+LNZ website.  This includes the intent of the NPS.

But there are some areas of concern that require changes if farming is to coexist with biodiversity, it says.

B+LNZ is working with officials to clarify the intent of the policy.

The government announced in November last year it is seeking feedback on its proposal for maintaining and protecting the country’s indigenous biodiversity into the future. Continue reading

Federated Farmers applauds Budget’s farming investments

We could find no mention of their speeches on the Beehive websites of either the Prime Minister or the Minister of Agriculture.

But Jacinda Ardern and Damien O’Connor today spoke about the focus of the $229 million Sustainable Land Use package in last month’s Budget.

Our information comes from Federated Farmers, which said moves to improve the accuracy of Overseer, and on-the-ground support for farmers working to lift their environmental sustainability, are positive steps.

The statement says Ms Ardern and Mr O’Connor spoke at Fieldays today about the focus of the $229 million Sustainable Land Use package in last month’s Budget. Continue reading

Federated Farmers disappointed by Green Party’s disagreement with Sir Peter Gluckman on GE

Climate change Minister James Shaw, questioned in Parliament yesterday, said he stood by his statement during an interview on Q+A last month that when it comes to the application of GE technology in New Zealand, he”will be led by the science on it.”

But Federated Farmers is disappointed that Mr Shaw proceeded to disagree with the former Prime Minister’s chief scientist, Sir Peter Gluckman, who said “I’ll go as far as to say that I cannot see a way that agriculture in New Zealand will be sustainable over the long run in the face of environmental change and consumer preferences without using gene editing.”

Nor did Mr Shaw agree with Sir Peter when he said “There is no way that we will get a reduction in methane production, and I can see no way that we will see an economic advantage for farmers as we shift to more plant-based foods, without using gene editing.” Continue reading

19 Endeavour Fund projects directly relate to agriculture and food production  

As an organisation that consistently calls for science and ground-truthed research to underpin policy and regulations, Federated Farmers says it has no problem with the government investing $249 million in the 2018 round of the Endeavour Fund.

“It’s a lot of money but it should be viewed as an investment in our future,” Feds science and innovation spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

“The nation has some big challenges ahead, including improving resilience to climate change, protecting biodiversity and maintaining economic performance.”

The Endeavour Fund is New Zealand’s largest research and science contestable fund and the 69 multi-year projects approved should deliver real gains in knowledge and future opportunities, Hoggard says.

He notes that at least 19 of the projects directly relate to agriculture and food production.

In particular, Federated Farmers is pleased to see an $11.4m NIWA project to advance the carbon inventory locked up in forest, grassland and urban environments, and $7.7m to a Lincoln Agritech-led team which will seek better understanding of the pathways by which nitrogen travels from land to waterways. This is a project which the Feds have identified as a priority.

Massey University will get $11.2m for its project Milks Mean More: Unlocking the potential of New Zealand’s ruminant milks, and NIWA will use $8m to explore new technologies to double the effectiveness of on-farm diffuse pollution mitigation.

New Zealand farmers pride themselves on being world leaders in both production and sustainability, Hoggard says.

They need the best science and research data available to step up our game even more.

Source:  Federated Farmers

Soil & Health is pleased that Federated Farmers has dropped legal action around GMOs

The Soil & Health Association says it welcomes Federated Farmers’ decision to drop legal challenges to several local council resource management plans controlling their outdoor use.

Soil & Health reminds us the farmers’ organisation has run a number of cases before the courts challenging the rights of communities in Auckland, the Far North and Whangarei to manage the outdoor use of GMOs within their own districts and regions.

The courts continued to find that territorial authorities have the right under the Resource Management Act (RMA) to set their own policies and rules controlling GMO use, a finding that Federated Farmers repeatedly challenged.

Marion Thomson, Soil & Health National Council Member, congratulated the farm organisation

” … for seeing the sense in dropping further litigation, allowing Councils to get on with making GMO policies and plans that reflect the needs of regions and communities”.

Soil & Health has held strong concerns about the potential impact of GMO land use on regions dependent on an agricultural export sector increasingly reliant on non-GMO requirements of key trading partners.

“This affects both the traditional agricultural sector and New Zealand’s growing organic sector,” Ms Thomson said.

The New Zealand environment and our local communities should not be guinea pigs for GMO land use, she said.

Auckland Council, Far North District Council and Whangarei District Council all prohibit the general outdoor release of GMOs and made field trials a discretionary activity with performance standards in place, whilst Northland Regional Council adopted a precautionary approach in its regional policy statement.

Soil & Health, representing organic and GE-free farmers, primary producers, home gardeners and consumers across New Zealand, has long campaigned against Federated Farmers in each court challenge brought by the feds.

On its website, Federated Farmers sets out their policy stance on GMOs (HERE):

“Federated Farmers’ policy on GMOs is designed to be neutral, recognising that members have a diversity of opinions on the subject.

“Federated Farmers does not advocate unrestricted use of GMOs, especially in relation to allowing foreign DNA into organisms. At the same time, we want to avoid a moratorium on new biotechnologies.

“Fundamentally, the Federation’s policy asserts farmers’ right to use technologies that are approved as safe. We support responsible, flexible farming systems which can respond to changing consumer preferences, market dynamics and advances in technology. We also want to ensure that New Zealand farmers can hold their own with our international competitors, in terms of on-farm productivity.”


Nutrient limits look likely to result in curb on dairy cow numbers

Environment Minister David Parker has signalled the imposition of rules which set limits on how much pollution farmers can put in to waterways.

Limits on dairy cow numbers could be among the consequences.

Mr Parker told TVNZ’s Q+A programme (HERE) there would not be a direct cap on the number of cattle but there may be limits on the amount of nutrients lost from a farm into a waterway.

“Cow numbers have already peaked and are going down, but yes, in some areas, the number of cows per hectare is higher than the environment can sustain. That won’t be done through a raw cap on cow numbers; it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it’s not just a dairy cow issue.”

Mr Parker conceded there had been no analysis of the economic impacts.

“But it’s very, very difficult to model, because second-best from the farmer perspective may still be very close to the same outcome profit-wise. Can I go back to what I was saying that I think one of the answers to this in south Canterbury, for example, lies in land use change towards more cropping, more horticulture, which are high-value land uses.’

The Government would not subsidise a change of land use change but would facilitate change through new technologies whose development it was willing to subsidise.

Mr Parker was unsympathetic to the idea of compensating farmers forced to reduce stock numbers.

“No you don’t compensate people for stopping polluting. Just because you could pollute last year doesn’t mean you should be allowed to do it all, or paid to stop doing it.”

Following up on the Minister’s TV interview, he was questioned on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report (HERE), when he acknowledged new rules to limit cow numbers could damage dairy land values.

Radio NZ recorded the reaction of National’s leader Simon Bridges HERE.

Federated Farmers dairy chair Chris Lewis told Radio NZ farmers are adaptable and prepared for changes, but he’s worried about what the Minister might be planning (HERE).

Mike Joy, a freshwater ecologist at Massey University, comments HERE.


Federated Farmers welcome new council – but where are the scientists?

Federated Farmers was quick to react to news of the new Primary Sector Council’s membership.

National President Katie Milne said having a dedicated panel for the primary sector was exciting, giving a chance “to really get focused on how New Zealand’s most important export earning sector will respond to a fast-paced changing world”.

The New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science was considering the council’s composition, when this item was posted.

It will be hard-pressed to find many scientists among the 15 appointees.

So what ringing endorsement does this amount to for agri-science leaders and the senior scientists at AgResearch, P&FR, Landcare Research, Scion and ESR, let alone Massey or Lincoln?
The new council (see HERE) will be chaired by Lain Jager.

At least he will – or should – have some sneaking regard for science.  He was with Zespri as scientists helped the kiwifruit industry recover from the impact of PsaV.

National’s spokesperson for agriculture, Nathan Guy, had misgivings, too.

Continue reading

Farm leader gives views on climate change committee and Govt’s policy aims

Radio New Zealand’s Nine To Noon programme today included an item on the Government’s climate change committee, “expected to do the hard yards for the Climate Change Commission to be set up next year…”

The commission – which in turn will make recommendations to the Government – will be chaired by David Prentice, who was most recently the CEO of the infrastructure firm Opus International Consultants.

Federated Farmers has expressed support for the committee’s membership but says there are huge challenges bringing farming into the Emissions Trading Scheme.

You can hear Kathryn Ryan speaking with the feds’  climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard HERE (duration 15′ 44″)

Source: Radio New Zealand