GrassFed in the city

Modern Farm Girls talking Food, Family, and Farming in New Zealand

Guest Post: Dani Darke “One Billion Trees”

June 1, 2019


Dani Darke is a King Country Farmer and Writer is recently had the following article published in Country-Wide (re-published with permission from Dani).

 

One Billion Trees – the end of the sheep and beef industry as we know it? Or the opportunity to transform our farms for the future?

I don’t think there is currently any bigger issue facing our industry. The ‘One Billion Trees’ (1BT) fund has collided with global demand for carbon stores to offset the burning of fossil fuels, and the harsh reality of what it means for rural communities is now starting to show.

 

At one end of the scale the 1BT fund has the likes of you and I planting up a steeper paddock, riparian areas, perhaps 15% of the farm to offset methane emissions. At other end is the large-scale buy up of productive farm land solely to plant trees. Since November 2018, 48% of farm sales on the East Coast have been to forestry. In Gisborne alone ~3,000ha; Wairoa ~10,000ha; The King Country ~4,000ha and Masterton ~100,000 SU have been replaced by trees. Many of these sales are going to international buyers who apply to the OIO under the ‘special forestry test’ where applicants are not required to show a benefit in relation to jobs. Locally Air New Zealand and others recently created an investment company Dryland Carbon, to buy land and grow forests.

 

It’s worth noting that New Zealand is one of the few developed countries allowing emissions to be offset by forestry. Most others (including the EU) deliberately decided not to go down this route as they foresaw major companies planting huge swaths of land and not addressing the core issue i.e. their C02 emissions. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the environment Simon Upton, modelled our current policies and predicts 5.4m ha of grassland will need to be planted by 2075 to offset New Zealand’s GHG emissions i.e. almost half the North Island. There is only 5.3m ha of non-dairy grassland in the country, so if current draconian policy goes ahead that is the end of sheep and beef farming in NZ.

The idea is this: in order to reduce warming, emissions are capped as per Kyoto/Paris agreements, then markets (i.e. the ETS) are used to allocate emission ‘credits’ among the emitters. Ideally market forces drive industry in the direction of less carbon intensive approaches. If you’re a textile or a steel producer, do you invest significant amounts of money into high-tech, low emissions solutions? Do you wait and see where the carbon price levels out and trade away your carbon liability? Or do you use your capital to buy land and plant trees like Air NZ? Incredibly only the first option actually reduces warming.

What is the effect of this afforestation? What happens when this land is tied up in a jobless, cash dead zone of trees for 30 years, and no longer daily exporting meat + wool? Carbon credits will be traded – but what if the owner of the forest is an offshore investment fund? The money won’t be circling around our rural towns, and bolstering school rolls. Technology will develop to reduce emissions but, in the meantime, what has happened to our rural communities? There is no appeal in a country full of trees, no life, no communities, no buzz of variety that a diverse landscape brings.

 

As farmers we need to work now to protect our industry. Halting climate change means regulating the transport and energy industries, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. We need to lobby the government to adopt the conclusions of the Upton report, particularly his call to stop CO2 emitters off-setting with trees. Let’s plant our less productive land, but make sure those carbon credits are used for essential things that we will still need in a zero carbon world, like fuel for an air ambulance.

 

It is imperative and only fair that trees grown on farmers properties are used to offset their own methane emissions. Maybe in the future the family farm looks like a 400ha block with 15% in manuka for honey and carbon credits, 20% in pines for carbon credits and logs, and 65% of your best land growing premium lamb + beef, with those emissions offset by the forestry.  Creating a mosaic of land use where farming fits the land, our farms will grow and transform into sustainable profitable enterprises, with strong capital value. A diverse mix of uses provides multi employment opportunities which support vibrant communities – jobs that are available every day not just on a 30 year rotation. If we can make this work we can build resilience into our communities, and our connection to the land won’t be lost.

I urge you to sit up and take notice of this, we need to understand the value proposition, so if someone rocks up the drive in a shiny suit wanting to steal your farm to offset, you can tell them with confidence to ‘bugger off’ unless they have plenty and plenty of $$$.

Living on fresh air.

November 7, 2018


When I read “The price of meat” in our local paper the other week, I wondered about dignifying it with response.  Sometimes, you are better to ignore nonsense, and concentrate on what you do, and doing it well.  However, I find I sleep better once I said what needs to be said.

Those of you that know me will notice the lack of swearing and general grumpiness in my response – I was writing for a newspaper audience and didn’t want to offend anyone.  I’d also have liked to put in links to different research but I had a word (and time) limit.

But this is what is important:

There is a small but fervent group of people that want to see the end of farming animals, and they certainly won’t let facts get in the way of their mission, nor do they stop to fully comprehend the implications to our health, the environment, our communities, and our economy.  Its important to consistently point out when their facts and messages are wrong.

 

Christine Rose article

 

 

I should be finishing my end of year accounts, getting ready for shearing, and grubbing thistles, however Chrstine Rose’s column (31st October) warrants rebuff.

As a politician, Christine should well know that pasture based farming in New Zealand simply doesn’t align with overseas reports based on completely different production systems.

All food has environmental impact, so unless you can live on fresh air, what you eat will affect something, somewhere.  Currently in NZ we are transitioning from the most profitable use of land, into a model where we better match land capability with growing the right food on it (and make a profit).  Climate change, water, biodiversity and soil is important to us and our customers, and it’s an exciting time to be in the food sector.

If Christine was truly worried about the environment, she would have mentioned the overwhelming environmental impact of rice, whose methane production is over 10% of agricultural emissions and comes with a host of other impacts, and the almond industry in California, which has devastated the water quality in that State.  Instead, she focuses on meat, and not even how we produce meat in NZ. 

NZ beef and lamb greenhouse gas emissions have reduced by 30% since 1990, whilst still producing the same amount of meat, and doubling its export value.  That’s something she could have mentioned in her column.

Our pasture-based production systems mean that almost no other country in the world can produce meat with such a low energy footprint.  Even taking into account shipping, the footprint of producing lamb in NZ and sending it to the UK is less than the footprint of producing that lamb in Britain.  She could have mentioned that too!

NZ’s actual greenhouse emissions are tiny compared to most nations.

Global_emissions_by_country_1990-2008 Greenhouse Gas

 

The information in the study Christine refers to, ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow’ was retracted by the scientists that wrote it, when they realised that they had miscalculated and underestimated transport’s contribution to greenhouse gases.  Energy remains the biggest threat to limiting climate change, yet our super power countries seem unwilling to solve it.

Christine also applauds vegetarians and vegans for reducing the suffering of animals.  My sheep and cattle have a great life with all their health and well-being needs met, as they do on my neighbours.  Better than the health and wellbeing of many humans, and certainly better than the life and death of a wild animal.  Don’t forget that hundreds of thousands of mice, frogs, rabbits, and other animals die to produce your veges, fruit, and bread too.  Food production results in death.  By all means, go and reduce the suffering of wild animals, however, I’ve got mine sorted, thanks.

And if its health that Christine was most worried about, then getting rid of the processed crap (including processed meat) in your diet and amping up your vegetables is where it’s at.  Quality animal protein on top of a plate full of fresh vegetables – fantastic for your energy levels and your mental health.

The sheep and beef farmers that I work with are certainly focused on a sector that produces protein that is good for the environment, good for the animals, and good for you.

Nicky

 

 

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