A new blueprint to lift the environmental performance of New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector has been unveiled by Beef + Lamb New Zealand.
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The Environment Strategy lays out a progressive long-term vision for the sector based around four priority areas – healthy productive soils, thriving biodiversity, reducing carbon emissions and cleaner water.
As part of the plan, B+LNZ has identified two key goals – every sheep and beef farm having a tailored and active environment plan by the end of 2021, and the sheep and beef sector as a whole moving towards carbon neutrality by 2050.
Over the next three years, B+LNZ will roll out a range of environmental initiatives to support sheep and beef farmers. This includes establishing a Collaborative Catchment Communities programme to help communities work together to target water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity, and soil health issues.
The organisation will also invest in developing a new generation farm plan that encapsulates these four priorities, develop new tools and technology, provide support and advice and undertake research.
“As a sector we have an opportunity for our sheep and beef farmers to be world-leading stewards of the natural environment and sustainable communities,” says Sam McIvor, chief executive of B+LNZ.
“Sheep and beef farmers have made meaningful improvements to their environmental performance and lowering emissions and they deserve credit for these gains.
“However, farmers know there is more to be done – not just extending the good work already underway – but also taking new and diﬀerent approaches.
“This includes adopting new management techniques that better connect actions to the environmental outcomes and more on-farm monitoring and measuring that gives farmers confidence their actions are reaping benefits.
We also need to allow the wider community to better understand the contributions farmers are making.”
“This strategy has been developed in partnership with sheep and beef farmers.
“This blueprint is about supporting sheep and beef farmers to manage their properties to improve freshwater, helping them to continue to reduce emissions and provide habitats that support biodiversity and protect our native species.
“We will also be working hard to ensure land use is closely matched to soil potential and capability. That will mean soil health, carbon content and productivity will improve while minimising soil erosion and loss to water ways.
“We will equip our farmers with the knowledge, and tools to best manage their resources and make changes as required.”
B+LNZ will also use funding from the Ministry for the Environment’s Freshwater Improvement Fund to work with farmers in four priority catchments to scale up individual actions.
Andrew Morrison, chair of B+LNZ, says since the 1990s, the sheep and beef sector has made major productivity and eco-eﬃciency gains and is now producing more from less.
“We’ve reduced Sheep numbers from 57.9 million to 27.6 million and beef cattle numbers have declined 23%.
“Absolute greenhouse gas emissions from sheep and beef farms are 30% below 1990 levels while the sector’s contribution to GDP has doubled to $5 billion. GHG emissions per kilogram of saleable product have dropped by 40% and nitrate leaching per kilogram of saleable product has declined by 21%.
“New Zealanders are concerned about the declining natural environment and there is no question our climate is changing.
“It’s a concern shared by farmers.
“Consumers are expecting more, and disruptive technologies are challenging our existing systems and processes.
“But every challenge brings an opportunity and this Environment Strategy aims to turn today’s challenges into tomorrow’s opportunities.
“Agriculture is inextricably linked to the natural environment, which means how we farm today will directly aﬀect what’s left for tomorrow.
“Our sheep and beef farmers fully understand this and are determined to be part of the solution.”