NZ farms leading the way – Federated Farmers
“…if regulations adversely affect our ability to produce food then other countries with a worse environmental footprint will step in to fill the gap.”
Although it’s often hard to see a silver lining in Covid-19, for the farming industry there have been positives, according to Federated Farmers’ CEO Terry Copeland.
“We have clearly seen how big a part the rural industry plays in the lives of everyday New Zealanders, as we had no issues with food supply the way some other countries did.
“It has really elevated the status of our food producers as the backbone of our economy, which has meant a lot more positivity from the general public around our rural industry,” he says.
Environmental concerns were typically at the forefront of public opinion but with regards to the environmental impact of our farming, Terry says that New Zealand is leading the way internationally.
“We have the smallest carbon footprint for our products compared with other places; the rest of the world is trying to catch up to us in that regard.”
He says farmers acknowledge that steps must be taken to mitigate climate change and have a vested interest in protecting the land.
But there is also concern that regulation is not always based on the correct information and with a view to unintended implications, which is where Federated Farmers acts to liaise with government to ensure that the right solutions are being implemented to meet environmental aims.
“Farmers are certainly committed to playing their part in climate change but we need to tackle issues in a way that does not adversely impact on the farming industry so we can continue to play an important role as a food producer for the world in acknowledgement that the Paris Agreement also states the importance of food security.
“For example if regulations adversely affect our ability to produce food then other countries with a worse environmental footprint will step in to fill the gap. We have a responsibility to ensure we continue to lead the way and make small incremental changes for positive environmental effect.”
As an example he is pleased that methane has been separated from carbon dioxide emissions in terms of climate targets.
He says that the focus on methane was reflective of the fact that New Zealand has few people compared with animals but by reducing our methane emissions slightly to keep them constant this will result in no increase in the impact of methane on global warming.
With around 13,000 members Federated Farmers is New Zealand’s leading independent rural advocacy organisation.
Federated Farmers consists of 24 provinces and associated branches giving farmers a collective voice at both a national and provincial level.
Terry says that the role of Federated Farmers is to empower farmers to excel and to encourage sustainability through good management practice. “We aim to be the voice for farmers so practical solutions can be achieved,” he says.
On a local level, terry says farmers are being hit with multiple challenges – drought, floods, bank pressures and Covid-19 combined with tightening environmental regulation.
Uncertainty is the key challenge underpinning these pressures, especially as Covid-19 continues to throw up unexpected curve balls. Federated Farmers has worked proactively to support the government’s pandemic response while ensuring food security for New Zealand. For example the border closure has resulted in issues around skilled workers being allowed re-entry leaving farmers short of staff.
Terry says that 12,000 Recognised Seasonal Employer workers are needed for the coming fruit picking season alone.
He is pleased that the Minister of Immigration Hon Kris Faafoi has recently created exemptions for skilled workers to re-enter the country which will make a big difference to the dairy industry in particular.
“We understand the need for the border restrictions and our job is to be in touch with various ministers to help balance the health requirements with carrying on our economy and food production.
“There are consequences from Covid-19 no one could anticipate so we need to make sure we keep learning and moving proactively forward to find the best solutions.”