Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Farming within environmental limits

Here is a copy of a brief article by Dr Dan Marsh, which was recently published in the new magazine Primary. It discusses the "Natural Capital" approach to setting limits of runoff from farms (for water quality reasons) as adopted by Horizon regional council.

The idea of farming within environmental limits has attracted a lot of attention in recent months. Some of the debate has been around the allocation and setting of nitrogen leaching limits; limits on the amount of nitrogen that can be allowed to leach from a farm or catchment into rivers or lakes. The recent environment court decision on the Horizon's Proposed One Plan (POP) has put the spotlight on the Natural Capital Approach (NCA) which allocates nitrogen leaching rights at a flat rate per hectare that varies with land use class (LUC).

Motu has done a bit of work looking at an alternative approach of nutrient trading - trading the nutrient emissions that pollute waterways within their catchments under a total cap. This ensures waterways can be protected, while the allowable amount of nutrient run off can happen where it can be most efficiently utilised. Dan Marsh touches on this approach in his article too.

Some of Motu's 2009 work on nutrient trading around Rotorua is summed up nicely in this paper.

Nutrient trading for water quality of course has some interesting parallels with emissions trading for greenhouse gases. A similar Motu working paper on allocating units for the New Zealand ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme - covering greenhouse gases) can be found here, with Suzi Kerr's latest thinking on the contentious issue of allocation and fairness in the ETS is covered in this recent presentation by her.

It's all very interesting and contentious stuff - lots of material to look into! Luckily Dan Marsh's article gives a good summary of some of the issues which we are having to confront as we look seriously at farming within environmental limits.

Thanks to Dan Marsh for providing us with the article for this blog.

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