Water quality, methane emissions, hot topics

Water quality, methane emissions, hot topics
Waikato Federated farmers president Andrew McGiven, wife Jenny and sons Hamish and Conor.

The hot topics for farmers in 2019 are Healthy Rivers Wai Ora Plan Change One and the Zero Carbon Bill, says president of Waikato Federated Farmers Andrew McGiven.
Both will mean big changes for farmers and for New Zealand, he says.
Federated Farmers is currently in the middle of the commissioner hearings, putting the case of farmers forward with regards to Healthy Rivers Wai Ora Plan Change One.
While Federated Farmers supports the vision, it differs on the best way to achieve results, says Andrew who views the proposed approach as nitrogen focused and broad brushed.
“The major issues in this catchment for example are e-coli, sediment and phosphorous. We are proposing that identifying and reducing these at a sub-catchment level will be most effective and we’d like to see water forensically monitored so that actions are customised from the resulting data. Farm environment plans should also include tailored actions and minimum standards tied back to the specific sub-catchment issues.”
The other hot topic is the Zero Carbon Bill with the targets being suggested for farmers being based on old metrics with nonspecific methods for achieving targets, says Andrew.
Federated Farmers is advocating using the newer Global Warming Potential metric, GWP*, which breaks methane down into various types: short lived, biological and longer lived fossil fuel varieties.
“It shows that for New Zealand to have a net zero warming effect we have to reduce methane emissions by 10% by 2050.
The government is wanting us to achieve 10% by 2030 then an additional 25-37% by 2050.
“We have been given no tools to achieve this apart from reducing stock numbers. We’d have to reduce national stock numbers by 50% to achieve these targets. We’re advocating looking at more recent science coming out around methane, but this seems to be falling on deaf ears,” he says.
With industry staff shortages continuing to be a challenge, immigration quotas are another hot topic for the rural sector.
Andrew says that the ANZSCO codes still need adjusting as they are impacting on the ability of farmers to get the right staff.
“At the moment there are codes for farm managers and herd managers then it skips down to dairy herd assistants. There are a lot of roles in between that we’d like to see codes for. Also, a dairy herd assistant can only get a visa for three years maximum then needs to leave the country for a year. That makes it hard for farmers to invest in training staff.”
The dairy apprenticeship scheme is providing light at the end of the tunnel and has had keen up-take, says Andrew.
The three-year programme aims to attract people to the industry and lift the level of quality of workers.
Andrew, who owns a 180ha dairy farm at Waihou, says he has noticed a surge in farms for sale with few buyers – something he partially puts down to recent legislative changes and uncertainty within the sector about future regulative requirements.
“There is quite a bit of concern in the industry at the moment. We want the government to work with farmers to find solutions to the problems we are facing and understand that the actions farmers are taking on-farm will be a large part of that solution.”
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