Whanganui farmer Kirsten Bryant has a "glimmer of hope" after the Government announced it will work with farmers to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Until October 24 farmers faced the prospect of their industry coming into the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which would have meant a levy on them every time they took product to a processor.
Instead, the Government announced farmers would not be brought into the scheme until 2025, giving five years to decide how this will be done and to find ways to measure and mitigate their emissions. They will also now be able to use trees on their property to offset emissions.
If they have not reduced emissions enough by 2022, they will go into the ETS early.
Former Beef + Lamb NZ director Kirsten Bryant said until this announcement the situation for farmers seemed hopeless. Now there is at least a pathway to follow.
"It makes me feel like there's a pathway through it, but that pathway is uncertain."
The plan will reduce emissions and change behaviour on the farm more effectively than a levy, she said. But so far the only way to make a major reduction in methane emissions is to run fewer animals.
Wanganui Federated Farmers president Mike Cranstone is enthused Government will work with farmers and he hopes it might take the same tack on freshwater.
He and Bryant agree allowing farmers to find their own solutions will reduce more emissions than "a pan-sector tax".
Now that they can offset emissions with trees, farmers will plant forest or allow retirement of unproductive land, and their motivation for riparian planting will increase without affecting the profitability of their businesses.
The farmers hope technology will find ways to reduce methane emissions - there's been no silver bullet so far.
Cranstone believes the agricultural industry is changing from a production focus to a sustainability focus - both environmental and financial sustainability. While farmers reduce their emissions, they will also improve biodiversity and water quality, he said.
He's disappointed the announcement doesn't change the high target for reducing methane emissions, but said an independent Climate Change Commission may take a more science-based approach.
The Environmental Defence Society was also cautiously pleased with Government's decision. But it questioned why five years are needed to decide how farmers should join the ETS, and said environmentalists should be part of making that decision.
Government's decision puts responsibility on farmers. If they don't perform, they will lose all credibility, CEO Gary Taylor said.