Will taxing farmers work?
Bryce McKenzie, Co-founder, Groundswell
26 November 2022, 21.3k views
Are farmers concerned with climate change?
Do they worry about greenhouse gasses?
The answer is yes, absolutely. But we have some different ideas from the government on how we should engage with these issues.
Kiwi farmers are some of the most efficient food producers in the world. For decades, many farmers have been addressing environmental issues, including emissions, through grassroots initiatives such as Catchment Group tree plantings, biodiversity protection, and conservation trusts.
Farmers are ready and willing to reduce farm emissions further. And as farmers, we work closely on the land and have a deep understanding of how nature works.
What the government is proposing through the Emissions Reduction Plan and He Waka Eke Noa, the Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership, will not achieve the outcome that kiwis want.
It’s often reported that agriculture contributes to around half of New Zealand’s total emissions, but that’s not correct. About 80% of agriculture’s emissions are biogenic methane and contribute very little, if any, additional warming to the atmosphere.
Farmers plant millions of trees that help offset agriculture’s emissions. Their offsetting capability is significant, but it’s not measured and accounted for in any reporting because the government refuses to use the latest data. In fact, they are using the base data from 1990 for measuring emissions, that’s over 30 years ago. Yes, methane emissions rose between 1990 and 2005, but they’ve been falling since, thanks to our hardworking, innovative farmers.
In August 2020, a bunch of concerned and committed farmers started Groundswell NZ, an organisation advocating for rural communities against unworkable regulations. You might have heard of us or seen us. Remember the tractors in town? There is no way we could have foreseen how this would catch on and become as popular and recognisable as it now is. But there is much work still to be done.
We need an objective and considered approach to ensure better outcomes for the planet, kiwis and farmers.
Taxing is a neat and simple solution. It sounds good, right? But it’s not going to achieve the desired outcome. And the knock-on effect on kiwis and the planet is significant, and here’s why:
- Our food production will reduce here, and for those markets, we serve overseas. The UN clearly stated that climate policy should not compromise food production, but that’s exactly what will happen with these government policies.
- If food production is cut in New Zealand, where we have the planet’s lowest carbon footprint and the most efficiently produced food, it will lead to other less efficient countries taking up the shortfall. So how is that contributing to reducing global emissions? It’s not, it’s illogical virtue signaling. It’s similar to the ‘captains call’ ban on our oil and gas in 2018, but then we’ve had to import over a billion kilograms in a year of the dirtiest coal in the world from Indonesian mines, just to keep the lights on.
- The availability of kiwi-produced food will decrease and extra taxes will push prices up. Food imports, which have a higher Greenhouse Gas footprint, will not be taxed on their emissions. They will be cheaper to buy, and every bite will actually lead to an increase in global emissions.
- Farmers have already implemented new technologies to help reduce emissions. Without further breakthroughs in technology, the only way farmers can meet the unrealistic targets of this government is to reduce animal numbers.
So you see, it’s a vicious circle that won’t achieve a better outcome for New Zealand or the planet.
We want to work with the government, and we trust our expert farmers that they want the best for New Zealand too. We have a deep love of our land and understand the decisions we make today will affect how the land responds, for our kids and their grandkids. We are committed to reducing emissions, feeding kiwis using the least amount of Greenhouse Gases, and leaving a resilient and sustainable legacy for future generations.
I’m Bryce McKenzie, for The Common Room.