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Farmers encouraged to participate in ‘increasingly accessible’ NZ Farm Assurance Programme - NZ Farm Assurance Inc chair Nick Beeby

The New Zealand Farm Assurance Programme (NZFAP) is not just for ‘leading’ farmers and all sheep, beef and deer farming operations should consider participation, according to New Zealand Farm Assurance Incorporated Chair Nick Beeby.

Speaking on the recently-released RaboTalk Growing Our Future podcast titled Assuring On Farm Success, Mr Beeby said the NZFAP – which provides assurances to global consumers that meat and wool produced from New Zealand’s sheep, beef and deer farms is authentic, genuine and safe – had evolved in recent years and it was now increasingly easy for farmers to get involved.

“We launched the voluntary higher level sustainability programme, NZFAP+, in 2021, and then six months after we had a really thorough review incorporating feedback from farmers that were going through the programme,” he said.

“And that feedback was around making sure that we could capture farms and farming systems at different stages of this continuous improvement journey.

“So, we went back and had a look at the framework of the programme, and we put in a tiered approach so farmers could be recognised for the great things they are doing on farm, without having to complete all of the requirements. There’s now silver and gold levels of NZFAP+, and silver is really about getting you on the journey. It’s about identifying the key resources on the farm and putting those foundational steps in place around developing your farm and natural resource plan.

“Whereas gold is actually about implementing that plan and the ongoing monitoring of it, and it also includes some more aspirational requirements.”

Mr Beeby told podcast host, Rabobank Head of Sustainable Business Development Blake Holgate, that accreditation schemes were not going away and encouraged farmers to ‘make the first step’ and get involved.

“Whether it be around proving our animal welfare credentials, or improving our environment and sustainability credentials, this is big for our industry,” he said.

“Farmers are doing the right things on their farm, and this step (NZFAP accreditation) is about proving or verifying that they’re doing the right thing and having that independently audited so farmers can stand behind what they are doing.”

In addition to verification of on-farm activities, Mr Beeby said the programme was now being used by many farmers as a genuine farm business planning tool.

“We don’t want the programme to be a tick box exercise, because that doesn’t add value to our farmers. It’s really around continuous improvement and providing farmers with a framework.”

“The different tier levels are really set there to encourage uptake. And the most important thing is making a start.”

NZFAP evolution

On the podcast, Mr Beeby said the NZ Farm Assurance Programme was originally set up six years ago with the aim of reducing duplication and cost for farmers.

“Meat companies started their own individual assurance schemes more than 20 years ago, driven largely out of the UK sector by the likes of the Tesco’s and Sainbury’s, so they could prove to these customers that the products that they were supplying them met a certain standard.” he said.

“There were about eight or nine different assurance programmes operating in the red meat sector and, as part of the Red Meat Profit Partnership, the sector came together to create an independently-audited national standard that it could take to the world around how we produce beef and lamb. And a core part of this was to reduce duplication and cost. We started with five meat processors on this single standard, and we now have 16 meat processors, one sheep milking company, 18 wool companies and over 8000 farms using the standard.”

Mr Beeby said the NZFAP+ programme builds on the existing NZFAP – which focused on origin, traceability, food safety and animal welfare standards – and includes additional topics which have seen increasing customer enquiry in recent years like people management, farm and natural resources and biosecurity.

“Expectations change and evolve over time, so there will undoubtedly be other areas that come into NZFAP+ over the years, and there will be things that go from NZFAP+ into the foundational programme. That’s just the natural progression of development, and of customer and consumer expectations,” he said.

“New standards are released every year and we spend a lot of time making sure our standards are appropriate and fit for purpose, as well as forward thinking.”

Benefits of participation

Mr Beeby said his own farming operation is currently going through NZFAP+ process accreditation and this has highlighted many benefits of programme participation.

“I’d like to think that I know our farm better than anyone, but as we went through the farm planning process, there were a huge number of little things that I picked up on, new knowledge to me, that will certainly assist with our farm business,” he said.

“Little things like identifying the critical source areas within paddocks and using that as a way of paddock design.

“Also, how we incorporate trees into our farming operation in a way that won’t reduce our productive capability, but in a way where we can actually capture some carbon credits.”

Mr Beeby also cited simple tools to assess stream health and how to increase biodiversity as other key benefits from involvement with the programme.

“So, for us as a business, it’s been really beneficial going through it, and I learnt far more than I expected,” he said.

Increased digitisation

Mr Beeby said digitisation was a ‘huge enabler’ and increased digitisation of the programme was one of the big priorities in 2023.

“Later this year, we will be launching NZFAP online and this is all about providing farmers with the ability to record evidence through their phone, we will also be looking at integration with other providers as well to avoid duplication,” he said.

“And if we think about why we’re doing that, we’re trying to make the auditing process, where we can, easier for farmers, and easier for the auditors.

“If farmers are recording a lot of their evidence online, the auditors can assess a lot of that before they come onto the farm. So, this is not about removing a farm visit from the auditors, it’s about making sure that when those auditors are on the farm, they’re not having to rummage through the shoe box of receipts, and they can spend their time on more valuable things.”

The RaboTalk Growing our Future Podcast features informed opinions and healthy discussion on the future of farming and how primary producers can adapt farm strategies and systems to ensure they thrive in a fast-changing world. New episodes are released fortnightly and are accessible via the Rabobank website and all major podcast apps.

Rabobank New Zealand is a part of the global Rabobank Group, the world’s leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has more than 120 years’ experience providing customised banking and finance solutions to businesses involved in all aspects of food and agribusiness. Rabobank is structured as a cooperative and operates in 40 countries, servicing the needs of about 10 million clients worldwide through a network of close to 1000 offices and branches. Rabobank New Zealand is one of the country's leading agricultural lenders and a significant provider of business and corporate banking and financial services to the New Zealand food and agribusiness sector. The bank has 27 offices throughout New Zealand.

Media contacts:

David Johnston
Marketing & Media Relations Manager
Rabobank New Zealand
Phone: 04 819 2711 or 027 477 8153
Email: david.johnston@rabobank.com


Denise Shaw
Head of Media Relations 
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand 
Phone: +612 8115 2744 or +61 2 439 603 525 
Email: denise.shaw@rabobank.com