Photo by peter.cipolloneNew Zealand's farmers are currently experiencing a severe drought that dairy farmer cooperative Fonterra warns may cost farmers $500M. The Government has been meeting with farmers this week to arrange a support package.

The effects of climate change are starting to be felt in New Zealand but it’s only a taste of things to come. Impacts include changes to rainfall patterns, more extreme weather events like flooding and droughts, and new pests and biosecurity problems. All these changes will make growing food much harder than it is now. Indeed the agriculture sector will perhaps be hit hardest of all as climate change begins to bite. This is not good for New Zealand. Agriculture plays an important part in our economy.

There's an interesting irony here though.

Agriculture also accounts for fully half of all New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, these emissions are rising, and agricultural production is becoming less and less efficient compared to other countries. Yet agriculture will be exempt from the Government's new emissions trading scheme untill 2013.

Intensive dairy farming is expanding rapidly and that doesn't look like slowing in the near future. Dairy accounts for the largest portion of the agriculture sector's emissions, as well as causing increasing issues with water shortages, water pollution and increasing fertiliser use.

Understandably the Government is now offering drought relief to farmers but perhaps the it should make it a condition of that relief that farmers take responsibility for their greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists say New Zealand can expect more extreme weather events as a result of climate change and we're all in this together -- we need an approach to reducing our national emissions that doesn't offer some sectors special treatment.

Agriculture is very important to New Zealand and our economy, which is exactly why we need to ensure that it’s practised in a sustainable way that allows us to keep producing food for years to come. For that to happen New Zealand's environment and place in international markets need to be looked after.