The Government has announced a $700 million fund to support the primary sector and other groups in meeting new clean water standards.
He says customers worldwide expect producers to look at the implications of climate change. If they fail in this NZ could face more trade barriers in negotiations with the EU and UK especially.
“They are expecting us to be part of the climate change movement,” he told the Agricultural Climate Change conference in Palmerston North last week.
Farmers may not always get an extra dollar for doing this but must make some changes to be allowed to keep operating. However some of the changes may see farmers get paid more for the value they offer.
O’Connor concedes that some farmers find dealing with greenhouse gas issues scary, as do many people.
“Farmers are dealing day to day with climatic issues and uncertain pricing; so to add another layer of complexity with climate change obligations is a big concern. But we have to address that, giving farmers clear honest signals and then offering them pathways to try to address these things.”
O’Connor says farmers have been receiving confusing signals, but there are many young farmers out there, and older ones, who get it.
“They just want to know what they have to do to meet the obligations and they must get the clarity they seek via guidelines and advice.”
It’s important to ensure that if farmers make change they will be heading in the right direction, O’Connor says.
“We can’t expect them to keep chopping and changing on the basis of different science or different levels of knowledge.”
It’s important to make the Emissions Trading Scheme work for farmers, he says.
“It may not be simple but it has to be workable and pragmatic with better outcomes.”