The release of the Environment Aotearoa 2019 report reinforces the importance of Beef + Lamb New Zealand Ltd’s (B+LNZ) Environment Strategy and Implementation plan, with sheep and beef farmers already taking ownership and action of their environmental impacts.
“We recognise agriculture has an impact on the environment and particular challenges for our sector are erosion and climate change. Our farmers have been working on these, and last year we released our environment strategy to take our action to the next level,” says B+LNZ chairman Andrew Morrison.
“Today’s Environmental Aotearoa 2019 report reinforces the importance of that strategy and why improving our environmental performance is at the heart of everything we do in the sheep and beef sector.”
“We set the sheep and beef sector challenging targets around working towards being carbon neutral by 2050, having clean freshwater surrounding our farms, sheep and beef farms providing habitats that support thriving native biodiversity, and land use being closely matched to soil potential and capability,” adds Morrison.
B+LNZ has already made good progress in implementing its environment strategy, with research released in July 2018 revealing some 2.8 million hectares of native vegetation on sheep and beef farms, including 1.4 million hectares of native forest, and new farmer workshops on freshwater management and climate change that are aimed at helping farmers measure their impacts and identify actions they can take to mitigate them and a new workshop on improving winter grazing practices set to rollout in the next couple of months.
“Nearly 300 sheep and beef farmers have already attended our new workshops on freshwater management and climate change in the past few months, which illustrates how they’re prepared to play their part on meeting the environmental challenges that New Zealand faces,” says Morrison.
Two key planks of B+LNZ’s strategy is for all sheep and beef farmers to have a land and environment plan by the end of 2021 and significant increased investment of catchment communities. Recent research indicates that 49 percent of sheep and beef farmers have environment plans, up from 40 percent in 2018.
“Over the past year we have really seen a growth in farmers getting together at the catchment level to collaborate and drive change. The reason they are forming these catchment groups is because of environmental concerns, they are trying to figure out what the issues are and how to deal with them. We recently profiled a couple of the community groups in the Otago region at our Annual Meeting, and are developing resources to help more farmers follow their lead,” says Morrison.
The sheep and beef sector recognises climate change needs to be addressed. In B+LNZ’s environment strategy a goal was set for the sector working towards being carbon neutral by 2050. Farmers have already made good progress in lowering their greenhouse gas emissions, having reduced their emissions by 30 percent since 1990.
While all of the focus has been on the emissions, there is also a significant amount of sequestration happening on sheep and beef farms from the extensive native and plantation forestry. B+LNZ is undertaking research at present to understand the sector’s net carbon position, but believes the sector is already a significant way towards being carbon neutral.
This work is just one part of a range of environment-focused activities taking place in the sheep and beef sector to help improve its environmental performance.
“Whether it’s through building a better understanding of what the risks are to freshwater sources from their farm activities, learning how they can use programmes like the One Billion Trees fund to offset their farm’s greenhouse gas emissions, changing their winter grazing practices to protect both animals and soils, or protecting the 1.4 million hectares of native forest on sheep and beef farms, our farmers are taking an active role in improving their environmental performance,” says Morrison.