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Farmers flock to climate change workshops

Over the next two weeks, more than 1500 farmers around New Zealand are getting to grips with why and how they should start responding to a changing climate, thanks to new workshops run by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and Silver Fern Farms (SFF).The 59 workshops kicked off this week and are focused on supporting farmers to know the emissions profile of their farm.Believed to be a world first in terms of scale, depth of content and partnership approach, the workshops step attendees through a process to ‘know their numbers’ by using B+LNZ’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Calculator. The second stage of the workshop provides technical assistance and templates so farmers can develop an action plan to manage GHG emissions.B+LNZ’s North Island General Manager Corina Jordan says the workshops are practical and add value to the farming business.“Farmers need to understand their own ‘why’ in terms of climate response, so it really means something to them – whether that’s because they want to build a more resilient business, understand the implications of future policy on-farm, or whether they want to unlock market opportunities and meet the expectations of consumers.“The workshops take a whole of farm systems approach, with the first step being to help farmers understand how actions undertaken on farm result in improvements in environmental performance including the sustainable management of GHGs, animal wellbeing and increasing on-farm performance.“They’re then walked through the tools we’ve developed to help them with measurement and management. Farmers leave the workshops knowing their numbers, including carbon sequestration opportunities, and with a written plan that will future-proof their farming business.”What they learn in the workshops will help farmers contribute to the sector’s He Waka Eke Noa Primary Sector Action Partnership milestones – by the end of this year, 25 percent of farmers need to know their annual total on-farm emissions and have a written plan to manage emissions.The other benefit for farmers who attend is that they will be meeting a key requirement of the newly-launched New Zealand Farm Assurance Programme (NZFAP) Plus.The workshops started this week and run until Friday 15 October.Feedback from participants has already been very positive. Rata Smith, a sheep and beef farmer in Curio Bay, Southland, attended a workshop this week.“I wanted to calculate my emissions and get ahead of the legislation so that it wasn’t a last-minute panic. I just didn’t know where to start.“The B+LNZ and SFF workshop was so simple, we were guided through the on-line programme and left a few hours later with our actual emission number……easy.“Now I know where I am in terms of emissions and where to take action to make a difference. I just recommend all farmers go,” she said.Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive, Simon Limmer, says the company was delighted with the extremely high level of farmer interest in the workshops.“Our suppliers are really engaged in emissions reduction and wider environmental issues on farm and Silver Fern Farms want to support that as much as we can. The great thing about the workshop approach is that it focuses on empowering farmers via practical tools and advice to inform the decisions they are making every day to manage their farms.“The high participation rates at the workshop are just another way farmers are responding to growing customer demand for sustainably produced red meat. Our ability to proactively respond to climate change and the transition to a low carbon economy will ensure we are aligned with consumer expectations in market and can deliver best value back through the farm-gate,” says Simon Limmer. Building on the success of these workshops, B+LNZ will be rolling out further workshops for farmers who haven’t been able to make these dates, or who are not Silver Fern Farms suppliers – for more information, farmers should contact their local B+LNZ Extension Manager.