New Zealand's agriculture sector emits more greenhouse gases than all transport combined -- but it doesn't have to be that way.
We want New Zealand to be farming into the future and passing on truly sustainable, healthy farms to future generations.
New Zealanders take immense pride in our farming sector, but more and more this is being tainted by industrial agricultural practices that are damaging our land, waterways and our international reputation as a clean, green producer. Farming is part of who we are as a nation but we should not allow it to continue to be industrialised at the cost of our environment and economy.
It's a little known fact that agriculture also makes up half of all New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions. Increased use of chemical fertilisers, increases in the number of cows per acre, and the destruction of forests for pastures are all contributing to make agriculture's emissions unacceptable for a world facing the challenges of a changing climate.
Some New Zealand farmers are making the right choices, adopting practices that are not only better for the climate and the environment, but also for their bottom lines.
It's known globally as "ecological farming".
Eco-farming is about reverting back to more traditional farming practices. It's about less input, and better output. It's about cutting down on chemicals, cutting back on herd numbers and looking after soil so that pasture thrives and lasts. Generations of farmers have successfully used this method in New Zealand - they knew how to work with the land and doing so is how they survived. In a way it's time to go back to basics.
Agriculture and climate change
Agriculture is a very greenhouse-gas intensive form of land use
Two thirds of our agricultural emissions come from the methane emitted when cows burp. Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO²).
The remaining emissions are from the nitrous oxide gas produced in soil from artificial fertilizer use, livestock urine and manure. It is an astounding 300 times more potent than CO².
Agriculture's nitrous oxide emissions are higher than New Zealand's road transport emissions.
The ongoing corporatisation and industrialisation of the dairy sector is by far our biggest contribution to global climate change.
What's more, these emissions are on the rise. As trees are cut down to make way for cows and pasture, and farming becomes more intensive, our emissions skyrocket
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Emissions trading and agriculture
The dairy industry is exempt from taking real action to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions until 2015, when it may come under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Even then, the agriculture sector will be heavily subsidised by taxpayers, creating little incentive for farmers to reduce emissions and invest in solutions. Recent research shows that agriculture has some of the most cost-effective ways of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand.
What happens if New Zealand agriculture doesn't lift its game?
Agriculture is the industry most reliant on a healthy environment and most at risk from the effects of climate change in New Zealand. Agriculture generates the bulk of our export earnings and has an international reputation not only for quality products, but also for being clean and green. This image - along with the sector's economic sustainability - is under threat.