New Zealand farmers are focused on climate change

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor was part of a discussion panel at NZACCC
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor was also part of a discussion panel at NZACCC.

Research released at the New Zealand Agricultural Climate Change Conference held in Palmerston North this week showed New Zealand’s farmers, including those running beef cattle, sheep and deer, are focused on sustainability and the impacts of climate change more than ever.

The online/hard-copy survey, by Nielsen Research, garnered 707 responses from farmers, and was commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) through the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change Research programme, said Nielsen researcher Wendy Stockwell who outlined the results for delegates.

The fact the research showed 92 percent of farmers are focused on making their farm more environmentally sustainable, up from 78 percent in the last survey of 2009, was really heartening for Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

“Some of the specific actions farmers mentioned were riparian/shelter planting, waterway control, improved fertiliser management and more efficient irrigation systems. This gives us a really valuable understanding of what is front of mind for farmers,” he says.

Minister for Climate Change James Shaw says the results of the survey are consistent with expectations.

“The survey shows farmers have a better understanding of what they are able to do on-farm to be more environmentally sustainable, with the exception of greenhouse gas emissions reduction – an area where we know farmers feel they need more information and advice.

“The Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG) report told us there are lots of solutions emerging, but that the situation varies from farm-to-farm and so solutions need to be tailored.”

Government is now investing in developing that advice and integrated farm planning tools, he said. “We need to support farmers and growers to transition to sustainable land-use through planning and informed decision-making.”

In the Climate Issues Facing Farmers Nielsen survey, over 59 percent of respondents are expecting significant impact on their farms and businesses over the next 20 years.

Highlights from the survey

  • 92% focus on making their farms more environmentally sustainable. Specific actions mentioned show an increase, notably riparian/shelter planting, waterway control, improved fertiliser management and more efficient irrigation systems (up from 78% in 2009).
  • 63% of farmers express interest in further information or advice about improving resilience to climate change. Managing severe weather events such as droughts, floods, and harsh winters is most commonly mentioned. Sheep and beef farmers talked of issues they are facing, including researching innovative solutions for growing soil, hillside erosion, flood protection, the sustainable use of irrigation an monitoring water quality.
  • Half of farmers think their farm and business is moderately or majorly impacted by current climate or severe weather patterns – this has not changed since 2009 (52% vs 51%). But the proportion of farmers reporting no impact at all has halved, from 19% to 10%.
  • 59% anticipate a moderate or major impact over the next 20 years.
  • 46% saying that clear government policy guidelines will help them take action.
  • 27% of farmers have placed a moderate or major focus on reducing their GHG emissions in the past five years (compared with 31% doing so in 2009).
  • 46% of farmers have actively sought information about land management practices or climate change issues in the last 12 months than in 2009 (down from 62%).
  • 58% said financial assistance, incentives or subsidies are most likely to encourage action to make their farms more environmentally sustainable. Seeing initiatives work on other farms/businesses similar to theirs increases farmer confidence that actions will be effective.

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