Why our dairy farmers should take their own climate-change initiatives rather than wait for govt regulations

Is the  Climate Change Commission’s draft proposals to meet  NZ’s emissions targets  as  radical  as right-wing commentator  Matthew Hooton contends, or entirely “doable”  as  leftie Simon Wilson  suggests?

The  draft budgets call on  the government to ensure  the  country emits on average 5.6% less than it did  in 2018 every year  between 2022 and 2025, 14.7% less for every year between 2026 and 2030  and 20.9% less  for every year between 2031 and 2035.  This is designed to get NZ to  zero net carbon emissions  by 2050 to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Prime Minister  Jacinda  Ardern, who has said dealing with climate change  is her government’s “nuclear  free moment”,  says she will introduce new policies  and a  new international climate target to meet the shrinking carbon budgets set out by the CCC.

For  the  dairy industry the challenge looks daunting:  herd numbers  will have to be  cut by 15% by 2030, assuming selective breeding reduces biogenic methane emissions  by 1.5%  by the same year.  From  2025, 2000 hectares of  dairy land  would be converted to horticulture annually.

For Hooton   the  commission’s report   combines  the “chilling indifference  of the  most swivel-eyed 1980s Rogernome with the absolute  certainty of the hardest-line Soviet apparatchik”.

For  Wilson the proposals  seem  “somehow  obvious” —they’re big  and will be life-changing,  but  they’re not destructive”.  He headlines them  as “gifts for the  grandkids”.

As  Point of  Order   understands  it,  after talking  with experts, the techniques  by  which agricultural  methane  can  be  reduced  are already being  developed  and  in association  with methods  to create  healthier  soil and land  are  being  applied by  some  of  the  country’s top farmers.

Specialists  are  already  modelling  the  efficiency  gains   for  individual  farms. Then, as well,    a  partnership  by  the  agricultural  industry  with  the government, He Waka Eke Noa,   is working on the plans and   tools in farm management  essential  in the  drive  to reduce  methane emissions.

These programmes may  be  resisted   by some  farmers  but those  keen   to  advance  their  productivity  have been  eager  to incorporate  them  into their business planning.

According to  some calculations  the NZ  dairy industry’s methane  emissions   are  already  20 %  lower than  rivals  in other countries.

The  precision  management required  in this new  era  also  looks  to farmers   choosing  to work  on growing  the new  grasses that could ensure  higher  production,  as well as  seeking  to breed animals that produce less methane   when food is digested.

In the past  the  dairy  industry  has  had  pockets of  traditionalists  who have been  content to follow   the  practices of  earlier  generations,  but  now  there  is   a sense of  urgency    to  achieve the  efficiency  gains   which will  lower  methane emissions.  It is  seen in the  more  careful application of nitrogen fertilizer  (which creates the greenhouse gas nitrous  oxide)  and in the  drive   to  improve water quality.

All  this  points  to what  could be a huge  marketing plus  for  the  NZ  dairy  industry  as a  whole,  as  it  seeks to  capitalise  on  being a  world  leader in its field.  This  is  where  NZ’s  dairy  industry can put a  real polish  on it being the cleanest,  greenest  in the world, ensuring  its products are  recognized  at the top  of the competition.

In  moving  on their own initiative  to reduce methane  emissions, dairy  farmers  could avoid  the awkward application of  government regulation  arbitrarily to reduce cow numbers.

2 thoughts on “Why our dairy farmers should take their own climate-change initiatives rather than wait for govt regulations

  1. In January, I am sure that I heard the PM say something to the effect that the Govt was going to concentrate on projects that will work during this term. I have no doubt that all the upheaval recommended by the CCC will not make one iota of difference to the future of the world’s climate. However, the PM was quite right when she referred to our “nuclear free moment” because that did not deliver anything of consequence either.
    More “virtue signalling” which will become the trademark of this government.


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