Landcorp is New Zealand’s biggest farming operation. It’s a farming company with more than 100 farms, owned by us – the people of New Zealand – and I was very pleased to read a piece by Landcorp CEO, Steven Carden talking about a significant shift in what and how we farm.
He outlines the opportunities for New Zealand to shift away from animal based farming (sheep and cows) towards more plant based farming (growing fruit and vegies, trees and grains). There are significant gains from this approach for our climate, our rivers and aquifers, and the variety of foods we produce and export.
Too often I hear that we have to feed the world and to do that we have to pollute. That’s nonsense. A healthy environment is the basis of a healthy economy. If international consumers know they can trust NZ products to be safe and produced in an environmentally healthy way, they are more likely to buy them. Making New Zealand’s 100% Pure brand real can help generate a premium for our food exports.
Most people want more on their plate than a mixture of milk powder, meat, butter, and cheese. We can and should be growing a diverse range of foods. More plant crops makes for more resilient systems and can take advantage of the different microclimates and growing conditions around New Zealand.
The rising export returns from horticultural exports such as kiwifruit, apples, and avocados, and new crops such as blackcurrants, underline horticulture’s increasing contribution to the economy and the potential for further expansion.
Reducing pesticide use and nitrate leaching remain challenges for the sector but these can be tackled.
It’s exciting to have major agricultural players such as Landcorp supporting action to address climate change. We need to support this with rules and economic instruments that reward good farming practice, and ensure that poor farming practice faces the true cost of climate and water pollution and biodiversity loss. As Steven Carden points out – farmers follow the signals. We need to make sure that the signals help farmers take New Zealand down the right path.
Steven Carden: Our land will have more crops and fewer hooves on it
Another day, another international report has suggested New Zealand needs to reduce its reliance on animal-based farming. Sobering, for sure. But not cause for panic.
Why? Because I think many farmers are coming to accept further change to how we produce food is required. And the public understands significant change on farms isn’t simple, inexpensive or quick.
The reports, a once-a-decade look at our environment by the OECD and research by UK-based company Vivid Economics into how New Zealand can achieve a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, both suggested that, along with changes to energy use, we need to change what we do with our land.