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Greenhouse Gases - what do they mean for your farm?

If your soil moisture sensor is working well your trace should look much like the one pictured. Periods of rain at regular intervals have resulted in very little irrigation being required for the past month. Now we’re in autumn it’s time to carefully monitor your soil moisture; shorter days and the often changeable weather results in significant variation in plant water use.

Primary Insight will be running FREE Irrigation training workshops for irrigators during March and April. Attendees will get a certificate of attendance which you can use to meet your Farm Environment Plan requirements. We’ve decided this will be how we will give back to our sector; but it’s also because we enjoy running them! The first two FREE workshops will be held 1-4pm Tuesday 15 March at Dunsandel community centre and 1-4pm Tuesday 22 March at Darfield Library – you can register for these through our website.

Given the un-seasonality of the weather we are experiencing I thought it would be timely to talk about the He Waka Eke Noa Climate Action Partnership consultation document that was released at the beginning of February. He Waka Eke Noa is the partnership between the sector bodies and government to find a practical solution to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions - methane and long-lived gas (primarily nitrous oxide). Primary Insight have been supporting the partners over the past year, helping them to work through the options.

The consultation document puts forward two options alongside the backstop - agriculture in the ETS. The options are a farm-level split-gas levy system and a processor hybrid levy system (processor output-based levy with a reward system at farm-level to recognise those implementing actions to reduce emissions).

In my opinion both options are preferable over the ETS as they allow for a split-gas approach, noting methane has a percentage reduction target but the goal for long-lived gases is net zero. However, government has recently indicated the ETS could also take a split-gas approach, but the practicalities of this are yet to be determined.

It is important methane be accounted for separately if the potential for perverse outcomes from a market-based system be avoided (the methane price being unduly impacted by the industrial sector purchasing carbon credits (NZU). The levy-system also guarantees the revenue collected is recycled for the benefit of agriculture; boosting emissions reduction research and providing incentive payments to those who choose to make reductions. Again, the government has recently indicated the ETS could also do this, but the practicalities of this are yet to be determined.

The trade-off between the two levy options is each farm being able to report and pay for its actual emissions versus the administration cost of doing this. The processor level levy calculation uses emissions factors that are based on national averages so efficient farms will be subsidising poorer performers; there are limited mitigation options currently available, particularly for red meat, meaning the benefits of farm-level reporting are limited at present (particularly for extensive farming).

I've really enjoyed supporting the partners with this work and encourage all farmers to read the document and provide feedback; or alternatively partake in one of the joint DairyNZ and B+LNZ workshops.


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