Farming Leaders on board with zero carbon policy

Joint Statement by PM Jacinda  Ardern and the Farming Leaders Group

OPINION: The Government and farming sector are looking well into the future to ensure the sector and New Zealand is well positioned for the years ahead.

Farming leaders meet with the new Government regularly to discuss our collective vision for the sector and our country. Senior ministers are actively engaged in these talks, and with leaders from across the sector on a daily basis.

We know that our shared goals cannot be achieved in isolation. We all need to work together collaboratively and constructively to achieve an outcome that is in the best interests of the agri-food sector and New Zealand.

''We will not always agree ... but we have a shared commitment to growing a sustainable and world-leading agri-food sector – and that's a great place to start.''

A first step has been farming leaders developing thinking on an overall vision for our agri-food sector. In our discussions, farming leaders have committed to a vision of working with nature to create the most valued food in the most beautiful and trusted place on earth.

Within this vision, the Farming Leaders Group has identified eight key objectives it wants to achieve by 2050. Collectively these reflect the need for the agri-food sectors to keep moving up the value chain.

But they also bring out the richness (in the broader sense) of vibrant and thriving rural communities and recognise the huge contribution they make to New Zealand and will to continue to into the future.

Trust is a common theme reiterated by this group that resonates with all New Zealanders.

As part of this look into the future the agri-food sector is making a further significant commitment in responding to the challenge of climate change.

The new Government has set a goal of New Zealand achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Farming leaders with the support of the Government are stating their support for this goal and the agri-food sector playing its part in achieving it.

This is a very ambitious and challenging target for the agri-food sector. We have agreed that there is more work required to understand exactly what this means and how we can achieve it.

Importantly, several different options on how best to deal with greenhouse gases are being consulted on and the Government will then consider feedback on these.

However, the farming sector and Government are committed to working together to achieve net zero emissions from agri-food production by 2050.

We have asked the farming sector's climate change experts to work with the Government's scientific advisers to better define the scope of the challenge and what actions will be needed from farmers, ensuring the Government knows what it can do to support any changes farmers may face.

We also want to greatly improve water quality – an ambition that means as much to rural communities as it does to those living in our towns and cities.

Last week saw the launch of The Good Farming Practice: Action Plan for Water Quality. Jointly developed by primary sector groups, regional councils and the Ministries of Environment and Primary Industries, the plan commits to supporting all farmers and growers to implement good practice principles that will reduce farmers' impact on our freshwater.

This is a positive step by the agri-food sector towards improving the health of New Zealand's waterways and builds on the swimmable rivers pledge made by the Farming Leaders Group last year.

These two measures are significant and are a clear indication of the sector's continued determination to respond and meet the challenges facing it.

Positioning New Zealand as a producer of sustainable, low carbon and trusted food provides significant opportunities to boost the value and reputation of our exports.

This economic opportunity for farmers aligns with the Government's economic strategy. We will work together to maximise those opportunities.

We are under no illusions about the significant challenges that face farming. We know that we will need to do more, and that there needs to be an increased pace of action in responding to these challenges.

But we also know that real progress is being made, that we have a strong base to work off, and that as Government and farming leaders we will work closely together.

Our recent decision to undertake the phased eradication of Mycoplasma Bovis underscores our willingness to tackle a tough problem together, in the best interests of farmers and the country.

We will not always agree and there will be many hard conversations to be had along the way, but we have a shared commitment to growing a sustainable and world leading agri-food sector – and that's a great place to start.

*The Farming Leaders Group is an informal grouping of New Zealand farming leaders that was established in May 2017 to work on issues of importance to the sector.  Members hail from Dairy NZ, Federated Farmers, Beef and Lamb New Zealand, Sheep and Beef Farmer, Meat Industry Association, Fonterra Shareholders Council, Irrigation NZ, Horticulture NZ, FOMA, Apiculture NZ, LIC, Foundation of Arable Research,and Deer Industry NZ.