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New Farm Emissions Research Will Want More Money From Farmers

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Kent Atkinson of NZPA

Wellington, Nov 12 NZPA - Executives planning the science strategy for coordinating research into greenhouse emissions from farms and livestock say they will be looking for increasing funding from the industry.

The Government's new Centre for Agriculture Greenhouse Gas Research has already been given $50 million taxpayer funding over the next 10 years.

But AgResearch's former head of climate and environment, Harry Clark, who is setting up the new centre, said he would be looking to industry for support beyond its current funding for the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium.

"We would certainly be hoping that industry involvement is maintained, and if possible, increased, particularly as we go to develop solutions," Dr Clark told NZPA.

Work to transfer new technologies on the farming sector would require increased involvement from industry.

He said attitudes to this increased contribution were likely to be helped by moves in countries such as France and Germany to impose penal tariffs at the border on produce from countries which were regarded as making too little effort to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

"Any talk of trade barriers always focuses minds," he said. "As an agricultural exporting nation, we can't afford to have trade barriers."

The last time state officials proposed farmers kick in a little more cash for the research to mitigate their livestock's contribution to the nation's greenhouse emissions, farmer lobbyists reacted with a paroxysm of fury.

At the time taxpayers were already spending $4.7 million a year on such research -- compared with $800,000 being spent by farmer groups -- but Federated Farmers mounted campaigned against the so-called "fart tax" on farm livestock.

The levy would have cost the average farmer only about $300 a year.

The politicians gave up and instead obtained the money from industry stakeholders such as Fonterra, Meat and Wool NZ, Fert Research, Dairy NZ, Deer Research -- which obtain their money from farmers -- as well as Landcorp and PGG Wrightson. It is matched dollar-for-dollar by taxpayers.

The new centre, which will oversee the consortium's research, is being set up as a "virtual centre" through AgResearch, with physical premises at Palmerston North.

It will focus on reducing emissions from farms, particularly pastoral properties. Arable, horticultural, pork and poultry farming will be secondary activities, because the bulk of methane and nitrous oxide comes from livestock grazing.

The Government wants to officially launch the centre at the end of February, and by December 15, Dr Clark has to compile a 10-year strategy, science work plan and business plan to be signed off by agriculture officials.

He envisages it developing new knowledge in mitigation of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide in pastoral farming, and coordinating research efforts nationally and internationally.

Agriculture causes nearly half the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. This could jump to more than half if international research results in the "global warming potential" for methane being re-rated from its present 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide, to a factor of 25, closer to its actual effect over 100 years.

In addition to the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium, the centre's NZ research partners will be DairyNZ, Lincoln and Massey Universities, and state science companies AgResearch, Landcare Research, Niwa, Plant and Food Research and Scion.

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