Comment: The heads of New Zealand's dairy and meat industries, have written an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to encourage her support their climate change commitment plan He Waka Eke Noa, saying current Government policy could affect thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in export revenue.

Dear Prime Minister,

We're writing to you on behalf of sheep, beef and dairy farmers and the countless rural communities across New Zealand who are doing their best to be responsible stewards of the land.

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We are incredibly proud of the environmental improvements that have been made by successive generations of farmers. Like you, we also want future generations to continue to benefit from and enjoy the environment we have today.

The way we farm has changed significantly for the better over the years and we know that we need to continue to develop, improve and adapt moving forward. That's why we have looked to work constructively with the Government over the past few months to help drive the best possible outcome on climate change for the country.

We share the Government's ambition to limit global average temperature increases to within 1.5 degrees. Farmers are among the first to bear the impact of climate change, with droughts and flooding now all too regular.

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That's why DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, the Meat Industry Association and eight other primary sector organisations developed He Waka Eke Noa, the Primary Sector Climate Change Commitment as a collaborative proposal with Government and Māori to help us achieve a low-carbon future.

We firmly believe that New Zealand can make the fastest progress towards managing our agricultural emissions by establishing a farm-based framework focused on practical change.

Our farmers are committed to on farm changes that will reduce emissions, but they need to be supported by good policies, technology, R&D and transitional measures.

Farmers, government, scientists, policymakers and consumers all need to work together to make a clear choice for sustainability. We also need to start celebrating the great low-emissions agricultural story New Zealand has to tell.

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We urge you to support He Waka Eke Noa, the primary sector climate change commitment.

This is an innovative and world-leading statement from the primary sector. We believe this will be more effective than taxing the sector via a levy on processors through the Emissions Trading Scheme.

The primary sector remains committed to working in good faith with your government and Maori to implement a practical and cost-effective system for reporting, reducing and then pricing emissions at farm level by 2025.

This approach will drive the right behaviour change and achieve reductions changes in emissions in a more meaningful way, which will be critically important to enable a smooth transition for the agricultural sector.

What's important to sheep, beef and dairy farmers - and we are sure the rest of New Zealand - is that we can continue to have a sustainable, competitive and viable farming sector and thriving rural communities.

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There is a lot going on at the moment for farmers with the Zero Carbon Bill and the recently announced freshwater proposals. Both of these policies will have significant implications for our people and our sector which supports thousands of jobs and generates billions of dollars in export revenue for New Zealand.

We see He Waka Eke Noa as playing as important a role for water quality as for climate change.

New Zealand farmers have long led the world with a reputation for innovation and productivity. We have faced challenges before and we have adapted, but in this global challenge we must do it together.

We're committed to playing our role in tackling climate change and improving freshwater quality, and like all Kiwis, we want to do our fair share.

That's our promise to you, and to all New Zealanders.

Signed by: Dr Tim Mackle, chief executive of DairyNZ, Sam McIvor, chief executive of Beef + Lamb New Zealand, and Tim Ritchie, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association.