Saturday, 7 September 2019

Carbon Emissions: Get the Research Right Before Legislating

Last month Rangitikei sheep and beef farmer Andrew Stewart wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and farming leaders about his concerns over climate change and farming.

Andrew describes his letter  as emotive —how he feels about his farm— but it is  far more than that. It tells of four generations of Stewarts who have carefully managed the 617 hectare  hill country farm,  planting 116 hectares of trees, one-fifth of its total area, and if shrubs and smaller trees were included, it would be much more than that. It tells of years of work protecting the land against erosion. It is hard not to feel Andrew's feelings as he shares them with us.
 "Our stocking rate is not high and during spring we average about seven ewes or just over one cow per hectare.

"With co-operation from our neighbours we have moved fence lines from at risk places up on to ridges to try and minimise future storm damage.

"We have installed a solar pump to distribute stock water to nearly two-thirds of our farm using only the power of the sun. We use Fine Particle Applications of fertiliser which in my experience is the most efficient way to grow dry matter on our farm.

"Any cropping is done with no tillage methods to minimise any impact on the soil. We do not use any form of winter cropping for my stock or feed out any supplements to our stock. They survive, and thrive, on the grass and legumes that we grow in an environment that I can only describe as clean and green.

"I know there are others in our farming sector who have done much more than us on their farms, and some that have done less. But when it came time to calculate my emissions profile, I knew that if the obligations were bad for me the outlook for many others would be dire as well, and catastrophic for our industry."
In his follow up letter, he reports on his his farm's emissions profile and found some worrying figures and comparisons. He used a Lincoln University online calculator which showed his CO² footprint equivalent as 1,372,100 kg — the same as would be used by a car travelling 6 million km, or 352 air flights between Auckland and London! The calculator admits to being only a rough guide and  makes no allowance for the trees on the property, and other conservation usuage which would greatly reduce or even remove his "footprint."  I suspect he thinks government agencies use similar crude measures.

What he asks of government seems very reasonable.  More research, more feet on the ground and more hard facts before introducing putative legislation. The footprint of individual farms cannot be calculated while warming one's feet in the office.

He feels he has done everything possible to reduce his carbon footprint. He is not a polluter.

And I think Jacinda would agree.

-- ACW

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