Budget 2021: Govt invests in efforts to tackle on-farm emissions

The Government is earmarking almost $62 million in this year's Budget to reduce on-farm emissions and develop a national farm planning system.

The agriculture industry has been described as being key to New Zealand's COVID-19 economic recovery, but the sector also accounts for nearly half of the country's greenhouse gas emissions.

Last year the Government vowed to cut biogenic methane missions to between 24 and 47 percent below 2017 levels by 2050, and reduce them to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2030.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor says the latest raft of funding will help "supercharge and streamline" efforts to achieve these goals. It will also ensure farmers and growers have the tools they need to improve on-farm performance and meet freshwater and greenhouse gas requirements by 2025.

A total of $37 million in Budget 2021 would go towards a national integrated farm planning system for farmers and growers, with $24 million going towards agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation research and development, O'Connor said on Thursday.

An additional $900,000 will be spent on collecting vital statistics on agricultural production, such as greenhouse gas emissions.

O'Connor said as well as achieving lower on-farm emissions, the funding would also help reduce costs for farmers and growers and boost returns for the primary sector.

"To meet our climate change and sustainability goals we need a single national farm planning framework that is easy for farmers and growers to use and that integrates with their business requirements," he said.

"A national training programme will deliver more skilled farm advisers and an accelerator fund will invest in targeted initiatives to significantly broaden the uptake of integrated farm planning."

The Government will also be investing in the research and development of technologies to reduce agricultural emissions, such as vaccine development, methane and nitrous oxide inhibitors, and low-emissions animal breeding.

"As an agricultural nation, there is a lot riding on our ability to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions," O'Connor said.

He said the shift to reduce emissions is in line with the Government's aim to "move from volume to values".

"Getting the right result will actually add value to our exports. High-value consumers abroad want to know they're buying food and fibre that are quality, ethical and sustainable."

Budget 2021 also included $22.5 million for the National Animal Identification and Tracing Scheme (NAIT).

"Our ability to trace cattle and deer through the NAIT system is a critical factor in managing biosecurity threats that could have a devastating impact on New Zealand's agricultural sector.

"Traceability is also important for food safety and quality assurance programmes and for responding quickly to natural disasters," O'Connor said.