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Mitigation and Heterogeneity in Management Practices on New Zealand Dairy Farms

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  • Simon Anastasiadis

    ()
    (Motu Economic and Public Policy Research)

  • Suzi Kerr

    ()
    (Motu Economic and Public Policy Research)

Abstract

Pastoral farming can result in adverse environmental effects such as nitrogen leaching and greenhouse gas emissions. However, the cost of mitigation and hence the socially appropriate level of tolerance for environmental effects is still unclear. Research to date within New Zealand has either estimated the costs of specific mitigation technologies or used simulation modelling at a farm scale. This is limited for two key reasons: neither approach uses data from actual implementation of technologies and practices on real farms and hence costs are speculative; and both largely treat farms as homogenous when in reality they vary greatly. We use data on 264 farms to estimate a distribution of “farm management” residuals in how efficiently nitrogen leaching and greenhouse gas are used to generate production. We interpret this distribution as a measure of the potential for feasible, relatively low-cost mitigation to take place as less efficient farmers move toward existing best practice. We can explain only 48% percent of the OVERSEER-modelled variation in New Zealand dairy farms’ nitrogen use efficiency based on geophysical factors, specific mitigation technologies and practices that move emissions across farms such as wintering off animals. This suggests a potentially large role for management factors and farmer skill. In contrast, OVERSEER-modelled variation in greenhouse gas use efficiency is more easily explained by the observable factors (73%) but the potential for mitigation through management changes is still not insignificant. Using management practices that are already in commercial use, this first study using this approach suggests that improvements in nitrogen use efficiency may be able to reduce leaching by more than 30 percent, while improvements in greenhouse gas use efficiency may be able to reduce emissions by more than 15 percent; the potential varies considerably across farms.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Motu Economic and Public Policy Research in its series Working Papers with number 13_11.

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Length: 44 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mtu:wpaper:13_11

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Keywords: Marginal abatement cost curves; climate change; agriculture; greenhouse gas; heterogeneity; leaching; mitigation; nitrogen; use efficiency;

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  1. Anna Strutt & Allan N. Rae, 2011. "Modelling the Impact of Policies to Reduce Environmental Impacts in the New Zealand Dairy Sector," Working Papers in Economics 11/04, University of Waikato, Department of Economics.
  2. Ridler, B.J. & Anderson, W.J. & Fraser, P., 2010. "Milk, money, muck and metrics: inefficient resource allocation by New Zealand dairy farmers," 2010 Conference, August 26-27, 2010, Nelson, New Zealand 96492, New Zealand Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
  3. Graeme J. Doole, 2010. "Evaluating Input Standards for Non-Point Pollution Control under Firm Heterogeneity," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 680-696.
  4. Doole, Graeme J. & Pannell, David J., 2009. "Nonpoint pollution policy evaluation under ambiguity," 2009 Conference (53rd), February 11-13, 2009, Cairns, Australia 48036, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
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