Dealing with agricultural emissions is very much on the radar of farmers, says Beef + Lamb NZ chief executive Sam McIvor.
Weather extremes have made another challenging year for farmers in many parts of the country. This now seems part and parcel of farming and we need to plan for and manage extremes. This is one of the areas Beef + Lamb New Zealand is supporting farmers to develop management strategies. Heading into another dry summer and autumn, five farms in the North Canterbury area are measuring and recording variables like pasture covers, fertiliser inputs, stock movements. The data is analysed by a farm consultant who is working with the farmers to support their decisions. The information will be shared with all farmers who can look at the management responses and potentially apply on their own farms.
Supporting farmers as they manage increasing environmental commitments is an area where Beef + Lamb New Zealand has added more resource this year, ensuring farmers have tools and resources to help them cope with increasing climatic challenges. We've also increased our focus in environmental policy work.
It's important that farmers are at the table when decisions are being made around farming within nutrient limits. We've now held two environmental conferences to help equip farmers with the information they need to ensure their interests are represented on their local catchment groups and councils. This ensures sheep and beef farmers' voices are heard as decisions on farming within limits are developed.
We know that local voices count for plenty in community discussions and these conferences have provided opportunities for farmers to understand how to engage in their own community discussions and ensure their views are listened to.
2015 has been a good year for progressing Free Trade Agreements. The New Zealand Korea FTA came into force earlier this month and given Korea is our fourth largest beef market by volume, this will be significant for New Zealand beef farmers.
But it's the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that could be the best deal yet. This mega-FTA involves New Zealand and 11 other countries around the Pacific Rim including the world's first and third-largest economies, the US and Japan.
It will secure our trading position in some vitally important markets, and prepare the way for possible expansion into others with exciting growth potential. The TPP will wipe out all tariffs on our sector's exports into 10 of those 11 TPP countries. Even factoring in the zero tariff treatment we already get in markets like Australia and Singapore, that is a major achievement.
But it will be in Japan – the only TPP market where not all sheep and beef sector tariffs will be eliminated – where the really big win will come for Kiwi sheep and beef farmers.
In September this year farmers were asked to vote in the 2015 Sheepmeat and Beef Levy Referendum. Farmers gave their organisation a strong mandate to continue working for them in the next six year levy cycle.
We coined the organisational tagline 'By Farmers. For Farmers' several years back and it's come to embody the essence of Beef + Lamb New Zealand. Beef + Lamb New Zealand is owned by farmers and run by farmers. It's where farmers invest together for their collective and individual benefit.
Many of you will be aware that I signalled my resignation following the conclusion of the referendum. It's been an absolute privilege to work for sheep and beef farmers for the past 10 years and at the end of March it will be time to hand over to the next B+LNZ CEO to take the organisation onwards.