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Greenhouse gas emissions – four things farmers should know

Consultation is under way to work out how (and how much) farmers will pay for their biological greenhouse gas emissions, including the release of methane from their animals, and nitrous oxide from nitrogen fertiliser.


The government is planning to introduce a pricing system by 2025, with sector groups urging farmers to start preparing for the change now.


AgFirst Agribusiness and Environmental Consultant Erica van Reenen outlines four things farmers should know:




He Waka Eke Noa – the Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership, which includes industry, Māori and Government - are still working out how to measure and price agricultural emissions.


That doesn’t stop farmers taking action now by starting to measure their emissions.


There are different tools available to do this, each with a slightly different approach.


Until He Waka Eke Noa settles on one of these tools for pricing, farmers should pick one and stick with it.


“There are about nine tools that are being fairly widely used – some are free, some you pay for,” says Erica van Reenen, Agribusiness and Environmental Consultant at AgFirst.


“Whichever you choose, just make sure you use the same tool, so at least you are using the same process and can track it over time.”




Using the emissions tools, farmers will quickly start to understand what is driving emissions on their farm.


The amount of dry matter consumed by stock, the amount of protein in their diet and the amount of nitrogen fertiliser they use are the three key drivers.


“The greater amount of feed that is eaten, the greater the methane emissions and the higher the nitrogen content of the feed we are giving our stock, generally the higher the nitrous oxide emissions,” says van Reenen.


“Understanding what drives your feed curve, and how you manage that, will help you understand what you can alter to reduce emissions.”





There is a lot of work being done to understand what farmers can do to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and how these measures will affect the overall farm system.


Over time, it will become clearer which measures are the most effective - but that doesn’t stop farmers from taking steps to reduce their emissions now.


For some farmers, they can reduce stock numbers and increase livestock performance.


“If you can reduce the maintenance feed eaten, that will help reduce your emissions,” says van Reenen.


 “If you are feeding the same amount of grass but being more productive, your emissions are going to be the same, but you’ll be generating more product to help offset the cost. If you can adjust your system to reduce feed eaten, this will reduce your emissions.”


Another option is reducing nitrogen fertiliser use.


“However, it’s important to remember that changes made in parts of the farming system may impact another so be aware of the consequences of making these changes,” says van Reenen.


There are some urease inhibitors and low emission feeds available and farmers may want to consider planting trees.


There are some urease inhibitors and low emission feeds available and farmers may want to consider planting trees.


It is still to be determined how much and what types of vegetation will be recognised under the new system, but with what is proposed currently, there is an expectation that vegetation should be permanent, and removing it could count against farmers.


That makes it important to take care when deciding what vegetation to plant, and how it can be integrated into the landscape.


Farmers should understand the pros and cons of each option and know how it will influence their farm system.

Lorraine Mapu - ANZ NZ Managing Director - Business

"Most farmers will now be aware of the changing landscape around emissions, and will hopefully be taking steps to proactively prepare for that, rather than waiting to react, to add another layer of resilience to their operation.

“We understand that it may be an uncertain time for many farmers, but Kiwis are among the best in the world at adapting to change, and we’re confident most will be as prepared as they can be when the changes kick in.

“Our agri-business teams around the country are ready and able to help with personalised advice for ANZ customers, and we have low-interest products available for farmers looking to assess their operations, environmentally, or to finance changes to their farms.

“ANZ has a long and proud history with New Zealand’s rural sector, and we’re ready and able to offer help and advice as we navigate this period together."

Lorraine Mapu - ANZ NZ Managing Director - Business




It is fair to say that coming up with a plan to respond to the new emissions pricing system is not a quick or easy task.


Farmers need to consider how their plan fits with their broader business objectives, and the resources they have available, including how much risk they are willing to take.


That said, getting out in front of the changes now will take the pressure off when the new system is introduced in 2025.


“For those who get their heads around it there may be opportunities in markets,” says van Reenen.


As part of formulating their plans, farmers may want to consider their short and long-term goals, thinking about what they want to achieve, and what is important to them.


No two farms are the same, so farmers will need to consider their particular soil, topography, water, and climate.


They will also have to factor in their financial situation and the people that help them run their farms.


“A lot of farmers respond to regulations in isolation, but it’s important to understand the flow-on impacts [of these changes] to all the aspects of your business.


“We are going to have to be more creative around how we can extract value and still be farming for the long-term.”


The detail of this article was part of an ANZ customer webinar “Understanding GHG emissions in the Agri sector.”  Watch the full event here


The public are being asked to give feedback on the proposed changes and can do so here: He Waka Eke Noa



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