The President of the Forest Owners Association has told delegates to the Primary Industries Summit in Christchurch that forestry offers many opportunities for farmers.
He said trees versus food production arguments are misleading and detract from opportunities to improve the sustainability and profitability of the wider farming sector
Phil Taylor has told delegates that not only do plantation forests provide an offset for farmers’ greenhouse gas emissions, but they are a valuable farm production option as well.
He said many farmers will be doing well out of their investment in planting decades ago, with record strong prices and a significantly favorable international supply and demand imbalance.
Trees, he said, can be used not just for timber, but also deliver carbon lockup, erosion control, and water purification as well as for shade, fodder, and food crops.
He said trees will be a major part of New Zealand’s developing bioeconomy and already there is an escalating appetite for wood to use in milk-driers to supply an $8 billion milk-powder export market.
Dairy farmers may become competitors with their own companies because of the need for wood chips in cow stand-off pads.
Phil Taylor said there is common ground across the primary sector on such issues as biosecurity, health and safety, labour availability, more indigenous biodiversity, and an objective, timely and science based regulatory system, which includes access to CRISPR gene technology.
Phil Taylor admitted that the forest industry relied heavily on its exports of logs to China. But he said most of the primary sectors’ exports were in the same boat.
All three of the dairy, meat and wool, and seafood industries are nearly 40 percent reliant on China for their export markets.
And he said the Forest Industry Transformation Plan would not only see more products, such as biofuels and innovative engineered wood products, but more sawmills producing more timber for domestic and export, thus reducing the reliance on the log market.
He signalled though that this transformation is likely to lead to future concentrations of plantation forestry in some regions to get the maximum benefits out of transport, infrastructure and skills.
Phil Taylor told delegates that the role of permanent carbon-only forests should only be on erosion-prone or remote land that could not be productively used for either farming or timber harvesting.
He also noted that if the Climate Change Commission’s reliance on 380,000 hectares of exotic trees being planted before 2035, was not met, then the government of the day could need to cut livestock numbers to balance the greenhouse gas books.
Undershooting the government’s 2050 net carbon-neutral target was not an option Phil Taylor said, and if trees are not planted more difficult choices will be required.
“I’m sure that would not go down well with many of you here today.”