From the farmers turning drought-prone fields in North Canterbury to hemp, to those embracing the promise of plant-based milk, to dairy farmers here in Manawatū turning to regenerative methods, we have a vision of the future with a thriving and sustainable agricultural sector.
Yet, we have far to go. We must act quickly to turn our agriculture sector from one of the worst polluters of our climate and natural environment into one of its biggest solutions. If we make the right choices now, we can create a thriving and sustainable farming sector that is good for farmers, good for communities, and good for the planet.
One of those choices we need to make now is to phase out the use of palm kernel expeller (PKE) and palm kernel meal on farms in Aotearoa. Since 2008, Fonterra has partnered with food producer Wilmar International, under the Agrifeeds brand, to import PKE from Indonesia and Malaysia as supplementary feed for dairy cattle.
In that time, we have become the largest importer of PKE in the world, and it is problematic.
The supply of PKE as animal feed is an enabler of the unsustainable intensification of dairy operations, driving up our methane emissions right at the time they should be decreasing. It leads to farming dependent on imported feeds, and high emissions. It is a far cry from the grass-fed, sustainable products consumers here and overseas expect of us.
Furthermore, the manufacture of these products contributes to illegal and unsustainable rainforest destruction overseas.
A recent investigation by Greenpeace Indonesia revealed Wilmar International allegedly has more than 50,000ha of oil palm plantations illegally established inside Indonesia's protected areas. Our dairy sector should not be associated with the destruction of tropical forests, which are home to unique and threatened species like the orangutan.
For these reasons, I will soon be asking people to join me in writing to Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor, calling for the phasing out of PKE and related products.
As the Green Party's agricultural spokesperson, I believe we can have a thriving and sustainable farming sector that is good for farmers, good for communities, and good for the planet.
At COP26 in Glasgow, Aotearoa joined more than 100 other countries in pledging to protect and restore forests around the world. O'Connor can make that commitment meaningful by taking action to phase out PKE and related products.
He can also show leadership through the Emissions Reduction Plan, to be released in May, by outlining a plan to phase out PKE. This will show the Government is delivering on its climate change commitments, while reassuring consumers here in Aotearoa and overseas that our farming will live up to its green promise.
• Teanau Tuiono is a Green list MP based in Palmerston North.