Environment and climate change adaption top of mind for farm advisors

In June 2021 NZIPIM undertook a survey of the membership to gain their insights on the biggest challenges and opportunities likely to occur within the primary industry over the next three to five years. Respondents were also asked to provide an assessment of future research priorities that would make the greatest difference on-farm. We were also able to compare responses to NZIPIM?s 2018 rural professional survey.

Top of mind for farm advisors and rural professionals is the ability of the farming community to respond to the volume of current and impending environmental regulations. Forty two percent of all respondents raised 'compliance and regulation' as the biggest challenge faced by farmers over the next three to five years, especially being able to meet increased local and central government regulatory requirements, which compares to 37% from the 2018 survey.

Heightened concern in adapting to climate change was identified by 32% of all respondents as the second biggest challenge faced by farmers, particularly the difficulty in reducing on-farm biogenic methane levels without undermining the profitability of the farming businesses (up from 10% in 2018). Within this category members also raised concerns in being able to respond and adapt to adverse weather conditions which also reflected the severe impact of droughts and floods recently experienced across the country.

Twenty eight percent of respondents identified uncertainty around the application of freshwater regulations under the Essential Freshwater Reforms as a key issue in working with their farming clients currently and into the future.

Based on results from NZIPIM's survey, members identified the challenges for farmers in keeping on top of all the new environmental regulations whilst ensuring they can continue to operate sustainable and profitable farm businesses, with many members reporting that this was dominating discussions between them and their farming clients currently.

Within the survey NZIPIM also asked respondents to outline what they believed to be the biggest opportunities for the primary industry sectors over the next three to five years. Over half of respondents (51%) saw the marketplace as providing the biggest opportunity for the primary industry sector with a large proportion of respondents focusing on the need to increase the value of New Zealand's agri-food and fibre products. Interestingly a high number of members recommended that this outcome could be underpinned through strong environmental and carbon credentials.

The environment, particularly improving water quality outcomes, was identified by 28% of all respondents as the second biggest opportunity for the primary industry sectors (up from 14% in 2018). The next highest ranked opportunity identified by 22% of respondents was in diversifying farm systems and in better optimising land use capability (down from 31% in 2018).

We also asked respondents to identify their top three research priorities that would make the most significant positive change on-farm. Thirty one percent of respondents believed greater research priorities should be placed on climate change research, particularly in the area of reducing biogenic methane emissions, which compared to 15% in 2018. Farm systems research was the next highest ranked research priority with 20% of respondents, particularly in the are of best use of land being a common theme with respondents here. Eighteen percent of respondents identified the environment as their first ranked research priority with improving water quality outcomes and reducing nutrient losses being identified as key areas of research under this category.

We would like to thank members that participated in the survey.