Equipping rural professionals to help farmers navigate change

In April 2019 Dr Harry Clark, Director of the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC) told the Agricultural Climate Change conference in Palmerston North that the rural professional sector lacks clear information, expertise and knowledge of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Without this understanding, Harry and his team believed that engagement with individual farmers and growers on approaches to reducing or mitigating emissions would be more challenging and take longer. This gap is now being plugged by experts via a series of bespoke seminars. "Greenhouse gas emissions on Kiwi farms is a complex issue that cuts across science and policy –so we need to convey a breadth of detail to influencers," Phil Journeaux, an AgFirst Agricultural Economist who has been working with the NZAGRC to deliver the seminars, says.

"The main challenge for our sector when addressing climate change is that each farm faces its own unique circumstances. On-farm consultants and rural professionals are very important as they know each business and it's  their job to give well-informed advice," he says. The 'Greenhouse Gas Emissions on New Zealand Farms' seminars help to explain the science, communicate the results of onfarm modelling (including profit impacts) and discuss case studies.

 

SeminarThe free seminar series is funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries and jointly implemented by NZAGRC, AgFirst and the New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Management. Over 250 rural professionals have attended 14 sessions around the country so far. Feedback has been "universally outstanding," Phil reports.

Professional attendees have included Farmlands field staff, farm consultants, rural bankers, fertiliser representatives, industry staff, land valuers, local government workers and real estate agents. Demand has been so high that three additional seminars have been scheduled in February 2020.

 

Ian Power, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Environmental Management Specialist, attended the seminar in Hastings in December to clarify the Emissions Trading Scheme's impact on New Zealand agriculture and horticulture. "I wanted to join the dots on several aspects and the seminar certainly did that for me. It confirmed to me that the sector needs to make significant positive change by limiting methane and nitrous oxide emissions." Ian says. "The learnings will enable me to discuss the issues on a factual basis with customers and staff. I think the main message for farmers and growers is to get your OverseerFM nutrient budget completed and from that, extract your greenhouse gas emissions report," he says.

Mark McHardy, Farmlands Director of External Relations, attended the Ashburton seminar and agrees that farmers' first step is to measure. "Reporting on your farm's emissions status will help you understand where to apply mitigations and make reductions," he says.

 

Facilitated by Greg Lambert, a Manawatu farmer and Agricultural Consultant, the 'Greenhouse Gas Emissions on New Zealand Farms' series began in October and covers:

  • New Zealand's emissions profile.
  • Livestock emissions and the carbon cycle.
  • Mitigation approaches on farm.
  • The economic impacts.
  • Forestry offsets.
  • The Emissions Trading Scheme.
  • Soil carbon evidence
  • Best management practices and tools to estimate emissions on farm. 

 

Seminar organisers put the positive response down to small groups and the use of clear language, videos and an interactive approach to navigate the myths and complexities of the topic. The NZAGRC are developing a hands-on training workshop for rural professionals wanting to work with farmers to estimate their emissions and provide mitigation advice.

 

Discover a seminar recording and other resources at www.agmatters.nz