Climate Change Minister James Shaw has challenged dairy farmers at DairyNZ's Farmers' Forum to take their world-leading farm systems and continue toward an increasingly sustainable future.
The forum in Waikato and Southland opened on Thursday, April 29, with Shaw – the keynote speaker – acknowledging the sector's success and where dairy is heading.
"We know that New Zealand's dairy farmers have amongst the lowest carbon footprint per unit of production in the world," said Shaw. "That is something for us to build on, to bend the curve on our total emissions output, because it is our total emissions that cause climate change."
"There have been things happening in the sector over the past few years that are changing the way things are done. These are making significant impacts for the farmers adopting them, reducing their emissions whilst at the same time increasing their profitability.
"Our task now is to roll out these innovations and changes in farm practice right across the country.
"The same thing is true in every sector of the economy. There is a lot of work to be done, but if we get it right, what we'll see is a cleaner and more productive country."
Leading New Zealand economist Cameron Bagrie also emphasised challenges facing the sector, including climate change and the labour issues, but suggested the farming sector's sentiment in the next 10 to 20 years should be a glass half full.
"Our country's world-leading agricultural sector has made big advances over the past few years, including tidying up balance sheets, and improvements can and should continue," said Bagrie.
"Disruption is here, and coming thick and fast, but the dairy sector knows what it needs to do. We are going to get there."
DairyNZ chairman Jim van der Poel also said dairy farmers can be proud of world-leading history in technology innovation and farming practices.
"We are living in a world that's changing more rapidly and we need to move with that. Globally, consumer expectations are changing. More consumers are expecting their food to be produced sustainably and we are seeing our global competitors' respond – they're all investing in becoming more efficient," he said.
"But we live in a world of opportunity. As farmers, we have an opportunity to play an important role in feeding the world's growing population.
"I believe New Zealand is well-positioned to strengthen our reputation as a premium dairy producer in the twenty first century."
Farmers who couldn't attend the event are encouraged to register for two webinars in May, which will showcase the Forum's economic insights and scientific solution sessions.