Planting Seeds - Food & Farming News from CDFA

Secretary Ross in New Zealand – Climate Trip Ends With Optimism About Future Collaborations

Top photo — Secretary Ross at a New Zealand apple farm with UC ANR vice-president Glenda Humiston (far left) and California State Board of Food and Agriculture president Don Cameron (far right.)
Bottom photo — Secretary Ross with the US Ambassador to New Zealand, Tom Udall.

By CDFA Secretary Karen Ross

My week in New Zealand touched on the similarities between our countries and the shared climate challenges related to agricultural production and sustainability, workforce development, and water. We met with growers who are staying on the cutting edge of sustainability by enhancing on-farm practices to meet growing consumer demand while adapting to the changing dynamics of workforce availability.

One of our meetings was with Ray Smith, Director General of the Ministry of Primary Industries, which includes agriculture. He spoke of the vision New Zealand has for a sustainable future, called Fit For a Better World – including productivity, sustainability and inclusivity; and that was reflected by what we saw on the farm. 

As always, I enjoyed visiting with Ag and Trade Minister Damien O’Connor. Although our trip was focused on our similar horticulture crops, at all levels of government people were eager to learn about California’s ambitious goals for methane emission reductions and the significant progress made to date in addition to the state’s investment in Climate Smart Agriculture practices. 

It was an honor to participate in  New Zealand’s “Oceana Summit 2035” with a emphasis on climate change, agri-tech and workforce development. The momentum will continue when we welcome international leaders and innovators to a June 2023 meeting called the Salinas Summit, organized by Western Growers to concentrate on agri-tech as well as advances in biological solutions and opportunities for partnerships.

New Zealand is focused on improving sustainable horticultural production through “A Lighter Touch” – bringing the horticultural, wine, and arable crop sectors together to meet growing consumer demand for foods produced through sustainable pest management practices. With approximately 92 percent of the New Zealand’s food production exported – the country is seeking to be in alignment with its export partners to ensure the long-term sustainability of agriculture.

Agriculture is a primary industry in New Zealand, and we see the country as an inspiring collaborator on issues like climate change, methane reduction, biologicals, and ag tech/automation.

I want to thank the California delegation that joined me in New Zealand — State Board President Don Cameron; State Bord Member and UC ANR Vice President Glenda Humiston; Environmental Farming Science Panel Chair Jeff Dlott; CA Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance executive director Allison Jordan: and, State Board executive director Josh Eddy. In addition to making contacts with many agri-tech leaders from New Zealand and Australia at the Oceania Summit, we enjoyed two days of farm tours and a full day of government meetings in Wellington, starting with a stop at the U.S. Embassy and a visit with Ambassador Tom Udall.

This is a spectacularly beautiful country with fabulous food and people. California and New Zealand share not only a diversity of agricultural production but also a commitment to overall sustainability. I look forward to a long-lasting partnership! 

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