Government finally announces agricultural emissions plan - but how's it gone down?

It's taken 20 years, but the Government has finally announced its plan to make farmers pay for agricultural emissions.

It's broadly what farmers called for: From 2025, farmers will pay for both methane - that's cow burps - and nitrous oxide, from fertilisers.

But there are a few key differences from what the sector wanted, including that the Government will decide the price of emissions, not farmers. The financial reward for planting plants and trees also won't be built into the scheme, but instead sit outside it.

Federated Farmers say that means more farmland will be converted to forests, ripping the heart out of small-town New Zealand.

In a field getting friendly with the farmers, chatting climate change over a cuppa, and then taking to a haybail podium, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spent Tuesday morning in Wairarapa. She was there to finally give farmers the detail of the fart tax. 

"Once finalised this will put New Zealand on the best possible footing going forward," she said. 

Farmer Vern Brassel was ahead of the system, getting live updates from his farm to his phone on the likes of soil temperature and moisture.

"I'm pleased that we've started. I think that we need some certainty," he said.

The sector had come together to develop He Waka Eke Noa, which means 'we're all in this together'. Ardern said it was largely backed by the Climate Change Commission and now the Government. 

But not everyone is on board with the Government's specific proposals.  

"It's really disappointing," said Federated Farmers President Andrew Hoggard. 

The farmers' own model predicts land used for sheep and beef farming could fall by 20 percent, and for dairying by up to 6 percent, while forestry increases by about 5 percent.

Farmers say that will devastate small towns

"It is going to rip the heart out of them and replace farms with trees," said Hoggard.

In the heart of small town Featherston, there wasn't a lot of support. 

"Trees where the cows used to be, they're forever changing something. For Christ's sake just leave us alone," one person said. 

"It's going to rape-f*** us, basically, that's what it's going to do. We're going to be devastated."

Another said farmers are "pretty resilient".

Ardern acknowledges there "are some issues" which she said is what the consultation period is all about. 

The Climate Change Minister himself isn't overly happy with where the scheme landed.

"I'm always very wary of prices set politically," James Shaw said. 

He's settled for the Climate Change Commission advising Cabinet. His preferred plan to cap emissions was too big.

"Officials were very, very clear that they did not think it could be up and running in 2025 and the sector itself rejected that as a proposal."

Ardern said it's not been done anywhere else.

"As with any first, it won't be perfect." 

It might not be perfect, but the Prime Minister is just happy the fart tax is finally moving.