Greenpeace calls for $1 billion investment in regenerative agriculture

As the Government plans for economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic, Greenpeace is calling for a $1 billion investment in regenerative agriculture with five key projects.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns have shaken New Zealand's economy and forced a re-think of how many of Aotearoa's industries operate. 

While the Finance Minister has predicted a "quantum economic shock" greater than the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, Climate Change Minister James Shaw has previously said we have an opportunity to build a new world which champions sustainability.

Agriculture is one of the largest contributors to New Zealand's gross greenhouse gas emissions and has been blamed for other environmental issues, such as poor waterways. Farmers, the dairy industry and Government are making some progress to address these issues, such as with fencing and planting programmes alongside rivers, but Greenpeace wants to see a "transformation of the New Zealand agriculture sector".

It says this can begin with a $1 billion investment in regenerative farming, which involves rotational grazing, significant diversification of crops, plants and animals and limiting chemical inputs to create sustainable, natural systems.

"The Government is currently making some really big infrastructure and stimulus decisions to help our economy recover after this COVID downturn and as they are doing that we are really urging them to make sure they make public investment decisions which address the climate and ecological crises we still face," Greenpeace's sustainable agriculture campaigner Genevieve Toop told The AM Show.

"Unlike the kind of mainstream farming that you see around New Zealand, regenerative agriculture is all about diversity instead of monocultures, it is about building soil health instead of degrading it, it's about using natural systems instead of harmful inputs like chemical fertilisers.

"There is a growing number of farmers around the country already doing it, but we need to see the Government make some serious investment in this way of farming as it works with the environment and not against it."

Greenpeace has suggested five key projects the investment could go towards:

  • Provide one-off grant funding for agroforestry, cover-cropping and reduce tillage
  • Construct plant-based food manufacturing facilities and more small-scale, value-added food, fibre and timber processing facilities
  • Construct organic compose and seed production facilities
  • Invest in R&D, training and advisory services for regenerative organic farming
  • Finance the fencing and replanting of streams, wetlands and marginal land

"What we really want to see is the Government making the right kind of big investments now that are going to reap rewards for generations to come in terms of addressing the climate and ecological crisis," Toop says.

Greenpeace says significant funding has been provided overseas for regenerative funding, which has benefits such as better soil health, greater biodiversity and reduced water pollution.

"The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation is urging governments to support regenerative farming," Greenpeace says.

"It states: 'Agroecology can help transform the way we currently produce and consume food to build healthier and more sustainable food systems. But this calls for the full engagement of governments and policy makers. Only with significant commitment at the policy level, will we see the scaling-up of agro-ecological approaches.'"

Earlier this year Beef + Lamb New Zealand launched a global study into regenerative agriculture to understand its market potential, how it differs from current practices and the views of stakeholders like farmers and regulators.

"Much of what is considered to be regenerative agriculture overseas is the natural way New Zealanders farm already, so a key piece of this study will be defining regenerative agriculture, benchmarking those definitions against farming in a New Zealand context and what opportunities there are for different farming practices to complement what we already do," said Sam McIvor, Beef + Lamb NZ's chief executive.

Greenpeace's full proposals can be found here