Farmers spell out priorities

A set of key priority policy areas for the sheep and beef sector have been prepared ahead of this year’s general election.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the Meat Industry Association were presenting the sector’s priorities to all political parties in a manifesto.

The sector was New Zealand’s second-largest goods exporter, contributing $7billion to the country’s total GDP last year, MIA chief executive Tim Ritchie said.

Trade was a key priority as more than 90% of production was exported and the organisations were looking to work with the Government to further trade liberalisation, including by addressing non-tariff barriers that ‘‘plague’’ the sector, Mr Ritchie said in a statement.

B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor said the environment was a significant focus and managing the impact on water quality a key priority, alongside climate change and biodiversity.

‘‘We are already undertaking substantial work in the environment space, but need Government to work alongside the sector in developing policy equipping farmers with the right knowledge, tools and support for continuous improvement.’’

The manifesto said the sector recognised the need to continue reducing its environmental footprint. It was committed to improving water quality and further reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Government could help by:

  • Supporting collaborative development of environmental policy that balances environmental, economic, social and cultural outcomes.
  • Eliminating the ‘‘grandparenting’’ approach to allocating nitrogen discharges (where allocation is based on existing discharge rates).
  • Incorporating natural capital accounting in land-use policy — where allocations should be made on the underlying natural capital of the land, not on current land use.
  • Enabling and funding community-led management of freshwater resources at catchment and sub-catchment level.
  • Supporting research into natural resource management, understanding the effects of land use on water quality and improving tools for climate change mitigation, especially how to reduce methane emissions from ruminant animals.

Environmental policies needed to be science informed and economically, socially and culturally sustainable, recognising that not all farming systems had the same impact.

Policies should be flexible and enable innovation to allow farmers to assess and make decisions on the best way to manage natural resources to minimise adverse effects.

In Otago, the beef and sheep sector regional contribution to New Zealand was 6971 direct jobs and a GDP contribution of $499 million, while in Southland it was 7568 jobs and a contribution of $550 million.

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