Rules worry more than droughts - study

Last updated 05:00 07/06/2013

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Farmers are more concerned about the economic and regulatory impacts from climate change than its physical and climatic effects, a study has found.

The study, by University of California PhD candidate Meredith Niles, involved 313 farmers in Hawke's Bay and 177 in Marlborough.

Niles found that:

- When it came to concerns for the future, farmers were "very concerned" about more economic and policy matters such as regulation, higher fuel and energy prices, new pests and diseases and more volatile markets.

- They were only somewhat concerned or concerned about more severe droughts, less reliable water, more frequent heatwaves, increased flooding and warmer temperatures.

- 69.5 per cent agreed or strongly agreed climate change posed a risk to agriculture globally (14.5 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed).

- 41.5 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that human activities such as fossil fuel use were an important cause of climate change (24.5 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed).

- 50 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that environmental regulations made it harder to operate efficiently or profitably. Just under 25 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed and 25 per cent were neutral.

Several of those surveyed were involved in more than one type of farming. About two-thirds (68 per cent) were sheep/beef or deer farmers, 29 per cent were in viticulture, 11 per cent in horticulture, 8 per cent in cropping and 7 per cent in dairy.

Niles, who also surveyed farmers in California, concluded there was a need for policymakers to better engage agricultural communities, for academics to undertake greater research that considered the influence on climate change belief and behaviours, and for farmers to "engage or get left behind" as policies are developed.

Climate change also brought real opportunities for New Zealand farmers to get their products into markets affected by climate change.

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- The Dominion Post

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