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Arable climate change obligations

FAR levy payers will find three extra questions on their Farmer Annual Return Form in January. The questions, which are voluntary, relate to the arable industry’s obligations in meeting New Zealand’s climate change commitments. The questions are:

  • Do you have a Farm Environment Plan (FEP) that meets the current compliance requirements of your regional council?
  • Do you know what your farm’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are?
  • Would you attend a FAR FEP and/or GHG workshop?
What are New Zealand’s climate change commitments?
In December 2015, New Zealand became a signatory to the Paris Agreement, an international climate change agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC0). As part of this agreement, each country made a commitment to address climate change. New Zealand’s commitments will apply from 2021. The 2020 New Zealand Zero Carbon Bill has set the following targets around greenhouse gas emissions:
  • A reduction in CO2 and N2O emissions to net zero by 2050.
  • A reduction in biogenic methane emissions of 10% below the 2017 level by 2030 and 24-47% below the 2017 level by 2050.

How does this affect agriculture?
As an alternative to New Zealand agriculture being included in the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme, the primary sectors negotiated an agreement with government and Maori to develop their own practical and cost-effective system for reducing farm emissions by 2025. This partnership is called He Waka Eke Noa (Our future in our hands) and its aim is to ensure that farmers have access to the knowledge and tools required to maintain profitability, while reducing GHG emissions in line with New Zealand’s climate change obligations. FAR signed up to this partnership on behalf of the arable industry.

What commitments has the arable sector made?
Through He Waka Eke Noa, the arable industry has committed to meet the following milestones:
  1. January 2021 Guidance for farmers on how to measure and manage greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through farm planning.
  2. January 2022 A quarter of arable farms have a written plan in place to measure and manage their GHG emissions.
  3. January 2025 All arable farms have a written plan in place to measure and manage their GHG emissions

How will we achieve this?

Step 1 By creating FEPS and collecting emissions data
Over the last five years, FAR has been supporting growers, principally in the Canterbury region, to develop farm environment plans (FEP) that meet regional compliance requirements. The HWEN programme will develop a GHG emissions module for farm environment plans. This module will become part of new FEPs, and can be added to existing ones. Part of this new GHG module will be the identification and development of ways to reduce GHG emissions from your farm (mitigations). Many of these mitigations will already be familiar to growers, especially those with existing FEPs.

Growers will also be asked to calculate and record a GHG emission number for their farm. The HWEN working group is testing a number of GHG emission tools including ProductionWise® and Overseer®. FAR is working with HWEN to ensure the arable sector has the appropriate tools for reporting.

A major programme of extension work (Growers Leading Change) will expand FAR’s support to growers across all regions in the coming year.

Step 2 Reporting on industry progress in meeting the HWEN targets
The HWEN partnership has committed to formally reporting on progress against the targets outlined above. This means that each sector is required to record what proportion of their industry has met the FEP and GHG data requirements. FAR proposes to collect this information as part of its annual levy declaration process. Three voluntary questions will be added to the FAR Farmer Annual Return Form. - Do you have a Farm Environment Plan (FEP) that meets the current compliance requirements of your regional council? - Do you know what your farm’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are? - Would you attend a FAR FEP and/or GHG workshop?

This information will enable FAR to record how many growers have FEPs and GHG reports and report industry progress to HWEN who will then collate all of the sectors information to produce a collective report for government. Individual responses are confidential to FAR; they will aggregated into a whole of industry report.

Why is it important that we do this?
The government expects all agricultural sectors to meet their commitments to New Zealand climate change goals. If we do not show tangible progress in mitigating agricultural GHG emissions, via the HWEN partnership, then the government may choose to oversee the process and enforce a series of stricter and more stringent compliance requirements that could create major challenges for individual farmers/growers.

The arable industry has already developed the majority of the tools and resources needed to enable growers to meet their environmental compliance requirements. FAR will support growers to adopt these tools and practices over the next 1-2 years. Recording and reporting on the industry’s progress in meeting the HWEN targets will show the government that we are making a valuable contribution to New Zealand’s climate change commitments.

For more information If you would like to discuss issues around GHG emissions and the arable sector, please contact admin@far.org.nz