Welsh Conservative Party politician James Evans visited Wairere Rams in Masterton last week to witness first-hand the impact carbon farming is having on North Island hill country farms.
Evans is a Member of the Senedd (Welsh Parliament) for Brecon and Radnorshire and grew up on his family’s sheep and beef farm.
The farm visit was organised by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) to give Evans an insight into how sheep and beef farms are being affected by carbon farming.
Evans said: “Having grown up around farming I have a passion for agriculture and protecting the valuable role that farming families have in providing food and protecting the environment.”
“It’s been a really informative trip and enabled me to better understand New Zealand’s farming and production systems and where our countries can work collaboratively together.”
“Wales and New Zealand really do have a lot in common and share the same challenges. However, I am extremely concerned about the loss of farming units to big multinational companies in both New Zealand and Wales for mass tree planning schemes. Governments must ensure food security and that rural communities are not jeopardised by mass planning of trees”.
B+LNZ CEO Sam McIvor says It’s understandable that Evans shares B+LNZ’s concerns over the unchecked carbon farming rules in New Zealand.
“The Government is economically incentivising wholesale land use change from pastoral-based farming into exotic trees – because the increasing price of carbon credits is distorting what land is worth and productive farmland is being sold for the future planting of trees,” he says.
“I want to stress that we are not anti-forestry. We are very supportive of the integration of trees on farms and for those trees to qualify for carbon credits.
“What we are worried about is the scale and pace of whole farms being sold into forestry and the need for some limits on forestry offsets in the ETS.”
Prior to the farm trip, Evans visited ANZCO meat processors in Ashburton to talk about food quality and the high standards New Zealand processors meet.
He then travelled to newly appointed B+LNZ Chair Kate Acland’s farm at Mt Somers Station to discuss challenges and opportunities for collaboration between New Zealand and the UK.
Like New Zealand, the sheep and beef sector in Wales is also being impacted by land use change, with a government target to plant 43,000 hectares of trees by 2030.
To put this into perspective, New Zealand is 12 times larger than Wales, so this would equate to 516,000 hectares.
“As two countries where sheep farming makes up an important part of our economies, collaboration has the potential to deliver benefits to New Zealand and Welsh farmers,” says McIvor.
“Welsh farmers are also concerned about the impact of forestry on sheep and beef farming and on their rural communities. We see this as an area where we can work together to promote the importance of food production and its beneficial impact on rural communities.
“The recently announced UK-NZ FTA and the new youth mobility scheme, which will increase the ability for young farmers to work in both countries, will provide more opportunities for understanding farming practices in Wales and New Zealand and the challenges and opportunities we share.
“There has been concern from Welsh farmers about the UK-NZ FTA increasing exports of sheepmeat from New Zealand impacting their markets, however this is unlikely as we are not fully utilising our current UK sheepmeat quota, and our flock numbers are reducing due to pressure from competing land use such as forestry.”
Evans’ visit coincided with the UK’s bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
The CPTPP is a free trade agreement including 11 members: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam. The UK concluded negotiations to join the CPTPP on 31 March.
As the world’s sixth largest economy, the UK’s accession demonstrates the continued value of the agreement, its relevance to economies in the Indo-Pacific region and now to those across the Atlantic Ocean.
The UK’s CPTPP accession complements New Zealand’s bilateral FTA, which is due to come into force in the coming months. Under the FTA, New Zealand’s beef and lamb will ultimately have quota and tariff-free access into the UK for the first time in decades.