Farming – it's more than just planting seeds and harvesting crops. It's a lifeline that feeds the planet. For non-farmers, when we sit down for a meal, how often do we think about where our food comes from? Behind every plate of food lies the dedication, hard work, and resilience of farmers.
Farming is the backbone of global food security. It's responsible for nourishing the billions of people who call this planet home. From rice paddies in Asia to wheat fields in the American heartland, farmers provide us with sustenance and life. Food security isn't just about having enough food; it's about having access to safe, nutritious, and affordable food. Farming is the bridge that connects us to this fundamental human need.
Furthermore, it’s important to remember that agriculture plays a significant role in the world economy. It's a source of livelihood for millions of people, directly and indirectly. It fuels local economies, providing jobs and income. In developing countries, agriculture is often the primary source of income for rural communities, lifting them out of poverty and improving their quality of life.
However, despite its importance, farming is facing severe challenges worldwide, and here in New Zealand we are no exception. Farmers everywhere are grappling with increasing input costs and growing policy pressures.
Our picturesque landscapes often belie the struggles farmers are dealing with, including the skyrocketing costs of production. The price of fertiliser, fuel, and other essential inputs has surged, eating into their profits.
Adding to their woes are the policies that seem to create more hurdles than support. Many regulations and taxes are making it harder for farmers to maintain their operations. In the pursuit of sustainability, they often feel caught between a desire to protect the environment and the need to make ends meet.
So, what's the solution? It's clear that policies should be designed to support rather than hinder farmers. This isn't just a New Zealand issue; it's a global one.
Governments can play a pivotal role in crafting policies that promote sustainable farming practices and ensure farmers can thrive economically.
Additionally, public awareness and appreciation for the hard work of farmers are crucial. When we value our farmers and the food they provide, we're more likely to support policies that make their jobs easier rather than harder.
Climate change is a big topic and one farmers are having to cope with on many fronts is significant and the global understanding of climate change science has evolved significantly since New Zealand’s targets were set in 2019.
B+LNZ, along with Federated Farmers and DairyNZ, has been working with leading climate scientists from Oxford University, to inform a submission to the Climate Change Commission (CCC) on New Zealand’s methane targets.
With the CCC set to review New Zealand’s methane reduction targets in 2024 in line with the Zero Carbon Act, Federated Farmers, B+LNZ, and DairyNZ have commissioned research to help inform the conversation and are asking the CCC to take this new research into account and set targets based on a climate warming approach. This research will help work out the most appropriate way agriculture can contribute to New Zealand’s climate goals.
Allen is a Professor of Geosystem Science at the University of Oxford, Director of the Oxford Net Zero Initiative, and has been described by the BBC as ‘the physicist behind net zero’.
“The report tells us that the current reduction targets could see methane offset all of the expected additional warming from carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from the entire New Zealand economy,” says Jim van der Poel, Chair of DairyNZ.
“Essentially the current targets would see New Zealand peak its warming in the 2030s and reverse back to 2022-27 levels which is well ahead of most other countries which are currently aiming to achieve peak warming (‘net zero’) from 2050.
“The research is a critical contribution to the conversation about climate change and raises serious equity concerns for farmers who may be being asked to do more of the heavy lifting, and bear more of the cost, than other parts of the economy.
“We need to be taking a science-led approach to the targets and its important they reflect the impact each gas will have on warming,” says van der Poel.
The study also considered what level of reductions would be required for methane from New Zealand to make no further contribution to global warming.
Farming is the bedrock of global food security and a linchpin of the world economy. Farmers worldwide, including those here in New Zealand, face growing challenges, from rising input costs to complex policies. It's imperative that governments and societies alike recognise the importance of farming and work together to create policies and pathways that support rather than hinder food producing nations.
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Angus Kebbell is the Producer at Tailwind Media. You can contact him here.