The Country - DairyNZ: More funding needed for agricultural sector

Agriculture will rely on continued support from both industry and government for emerging technologies if it is to meet the long-term emissions reduction necessary for New Zealand to transition to a low-emissions economy, DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said.

The Productivity Commission has released a draft report on a low-emissions economy. The report recommended that the Government should increase its yearly funding for research on agricultural mitigation technologies to a level that better reflects the potential value of successful outcomes.

"The report acknowledges that even with a significant focus on forestry sequestration, the required 20 per cent or more decrease in agricultural emissions is contingent on the long-awaited technological solutions such as a methane vaccine," Dr Mackle said.

"Both the Government and the agricultural sector is heavily invested in developing a technological solution to agricufltural emissions. We are seeing promising results but this work needs continued support if we are to succeed."

The Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium, which is working to develop technological solutions to agricultural emissions such as methane vaccines, was set up in 2003 and receives investment of $5 million per year.

"We are very supportive of the collaborative approach taken by the climate change Minister James Shaw to support the dairy and wider agricultural sector to transition to a low-emissions economy" says Dr Mackle.

"However, for there to be a permanent solution for New Zealand we need to see continued government-industry funding for the research and science currently underway to address agricultural emissions.

"Our dairy sector is already one of the lowest emissions producer of dairy in the world, so we are focused on working with our farmers and the government on other avenues for emissions reduction. This includes exploring options through the government's One Billion Trees policy.

"However this report makes clear that even with significant undertakings by the agricultural sector to adopt initiatives such as increased planting, there is no long-term solution without the emergence of a mitigation technology to reduce the methane produced by cattle and sheep.

"While measures like planting trees and riparian margins will buy us time and improve water quality, a long-term solution to greenhouse gas emissions on farm relies on technological solutions. We are seeing such solutions on the horizon internationally, but there is no solution developed yet that fits the needs of a New Zealand farmer," he said.

"I am certain that with continued collaboration and investment from industry and Government, New Zealand will develop a technological solution to what is both one of the biggest opportunities and challenges this country may ever see."