Update on key policy issues: agricultural emissions pricing and freshwater farm plans

// Climate Change

The following email was sent to farmers on 16 June 2023.

waterways running through farm

Following is an update on the Government’s plans for agricultural emissions pricing following a meeting with the Prime Minister at Fieldays, and on freshwater farm plans.

Agricultural emissions pricing

  • Farmers have sent us a clear message they were not happy with the original pricing proposal the He Waka Eke Noa industry partners put to Government.
  • We have made it clear that we no longer support the original He Waka Eke Noa proposal and changes are needed, but we remain committed to a collaborative process within the He Waka Eke Noa partnership.
  • B+LNZ has therefore been arguing over the past few months that the focus should instead be on setting up a farm-level measurement and reporting system for emissions and getting that right.
  • We’ve also been arguing that there should be no price on agricultural emissions until we’ve sorted out issues like sequestration and there are viable mitigations available. (See for example this recent Stuff opinion piece)
  • We attended a meeting with the Prime Minister and farming leaders at Fieldays.
    • The Government’s primary focus will now be delivering a standardised measurement and reporting system by 2025.
    • We agreed to continue to work together to resolve the outstanding issues of recognition for sequestration; equity, pricing and timing.
    • We also agreed that ongoing investment in research and development, education, extension and technology uptake is needed.
  • We will not accept any system that puts the viability of sheep and beef farmers at risk.
  • We do not agree with the current methane targets and will continue to argue for a review based on the science of warming.
  • While we need to continue to invest in R&D, in our view pricing to drive emissions reductions is looking increasingly unnecessary.
  • Land-use change and the Government’s other environmental policies will over the next few years reduce sheep, beef and dairy livestock numbers – we don’t support this outcome but it needs to be factored in. We also believe that once mitigations become available farmers will take them up, either through market and processor incentives, or because it will make production and economic sense.

Freshwater farm plans

  • Last week the Government released information about the mandatory freshwater farm plan regulations that will apply to all farms over 20 hectares.
  • We’re working with other industry groups like Federated Farmers to seek clarification from the Government on how this will work, but we have a number of significant concerns.
  • B+LNZ values the role farm plans play in managing freshwater health and has been encouraging farmers to have active farm environment plans, but we’re concerned about the following:
    • We do not believe all farmers (including very small or very extensive operations) should need to do a mandatory plan. The focus should be on at-risk catchments and the most at-risk activities.  
    • We also want existing industry plans, or other plans, to be recognised as equivalent so farmers don’t have to do the same thing twice.
    • While efforts have been made to make the Government’s plans outcomes-based, they are still prescriptive and we believe the two-step certification and auditing process will cost a lot more than the Government is estimating.
    • We also have serious questions about the availability of appropriately skilled people to certify and audit 35,000 farm plans by 2028, and believe the timeframes need to be longer.
  • Based on preliminary discussions with the Government there appears to be a willingness to address some of these concerns. We hope to have a better sense of this in the next few weeks.
  • This has significant implications for farmers so we’ll be working hard with other industry groups to ensure the right outcomes.

We are also continuing to work hard on changes to associated regulation such as the low-slope map for stock exclusion. 

 National’s climate change policy

  • This week the National Party released its climate change policy, which is closely aligned with the policy asks of the sheep and beef sector.
  • We’re pleased National has listened on issues such as agricultural emissions pricing, reviewing the methane targets based on the latest science and the warming impact of methane, and restricting the rate of whole-farm conversions into forestry for entry into the ETS. We need to discuss National’s carbon farming proposal further, but it is good to see something concrete from them on this.  
  • We also welcome a review of the genetic technologies used in NZ, as we could be missing out on new techniques that would allow farmers to produce food more sustainably. However, as part of this review it’s vital we further understand the latest consumer attitudes to GMOs.
  • Read our media release about National’s climate change policy for more info.

It has been a busy few weeks and we’re expecting more announcements to come – we’ll keep you updated.

B+LNZ will continue to push for the right outcomes for our farmers, as well as for the environment.

Please contact us if you have any questions or comments about the topics covered in this email.