Getting deer in the carbon

Getting deer in the carbon

Friday, August 23, 2019

Deer farming, the smallest of the mainstream livestock industries, has its hands full dealing with what it will mean for deer farmers when agriculture moves into the emissions trading scheme.

Deer Industry NZ chief executive Dan Coup says his team is working on two levels, both equally urgent: policy development and practical ways to apply those policies on the farm.

“Over the next five years it seems inevitable that agriculture will transition into a pricing regime for biological emissions. It’s a huge task. No other country in the world has attempted it, so we need everyone to co-operate. Our first challenge is to convince government to work with us.

“The proposed flat carbon levy on processors for a transition period will not encourage farmers to look at ways of reducing their emissions or increase their on-farm carbon storage. It will be seen as yet another tax and make farmers less inclined to cooperate.

“Instead, DINZ and the other primary industries are saying ‘work with us’, as outlined in the Primary Sector Climate Change Commitment, E Waka Eke Noa. We need policies that are fair to farmers and practical to apply on an ordinary family farm,” he says.

Emissions due to human-related activities account for approximately 70 per cent of total methane emissions. Source: IPCC, 2007

DINZ also sees the methane targets in the Zero Carbon Bill as being unnecessary and unrealistic. It has made submissions to that effect and is continuing to lobby for changes to the reduction targets for methane of 10 per cent by 2030 and 24-47 per cent by 2050.

“Neither level is achievable because the bill does not allow for on-farm offsetting. If offsetting is allowed, the 2030 target looks reasonable. Achieving the 2050 target, without destroying our industry, would require the development of technology that doesn’t yet exist,” Coup says.

From 2020 to 2024 he says farmers and government need to be developing a system that accounts for greenhouse gas emissions and offsets at the level of the individual farm. This will give farmers the incentive to assess the emissions on their farms and to find ways to minimise or offset them.

Coup says this is not the easiest option. Most farmers, including deer farmers, don’t yet know what their farms are emitting or how to reduce their emissions. But, he argues, it’s the best option because it puts decision-making in the hands of those who actually manage farms and livestock, individual farmers.

If the government accepts the livestock sector’s vision and decides to work with them, Coup says farmers will have a second major challenge, “making individual farm greenhouse gas accounting actually work.”

Providing farmers with good, practical, easy-to-apply information is going to be essential.

DINZ has engaged AgFirst to look at what management practices four deer farms could apply today to reduce or offset their emissions.

Four classes of deer farm are being looked at: North Island hill country, South Island high country, intensive velvet and intensive venison finishing. The results will be available from early September for farmers to consider.

DINZ will be looking to incorporate the outputs of this research in the upcoming review of the Deer Farming Environmental Management Code of Practice. Content on greenhouse gas emission reduction and mitigation, which are mentioned in the 2017 edition, will – along with biodiversity – be expanded in the 2021 edition.