Opinion: Is farming under attack?

  • Opinion
  • 15/05/2019

By Manawatu farmer Richard Morrison 

OPINION: It has been an interesting few weeks in the world of politics. 

Farmers were generally pleased the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) was put on the hardest to reach shelf. This is not the case for the Zero Carbon Amendment Bill (ZCB).

The ZCB is of far greater concern and it appears it will be pushed through. Politically it is easier to sell than the CGT, but as always, the devil is always in the detail. 

This bill will have huge effects on agriculture as we know it. 

Methane - the gas which makes up three quarters of agricultural emissions - will have a target of a 10 percent reduction by 2030. That is a reduction from today, not from 2005 levels, as previously suggested.

By 2050, the target reduction will be 24-47 percent. 

In order for this to be achieved, either a reduction in stock needs to occur or some new technology needs to be developed. 

Richard Morrison is worried about the impact proposed new Government policies will have on rural communities.
Richard Morrison is worried about the impact proposed new Government policies will have on rural communities. Photo credit: Supplied

It looks like the Government is prepared to gamble our economy on winning a few brownie points.

Ironically, industrial emitters can offset their long-lived carbon emissions by planting trees; this luxury is not available to farmers as post-1990 forests planted on your own farm are not able to be used as a direct offset for short-lived methane. 

The ZCB gives no guidance around how emissions will be measured and accounted for. 

Let’s hope us farmers won’t have to pay consultants for the privilege of working out how much we have to pay. 

When pondering the ZCB I get a sense farming is under attack. The dairy industry has come through the 'dirty dairy' campaign only to be staring down the barrel of being thumped with an environmental tax and strict nutrient caps. 

Sheep and beef farmers are not off the hook. We are also facing environmental regulation and taxation. 

Combine this with the appetite of the Government to incentivise forestry and we are only one downturn away from losing vast tracts of traditional sheep and beef hill country to forestry. 

This would be catastrophic for our rural communities. 

How does the Government not understand sheep and beef farms employ five times more people than forestry? 

Does it not know farming is converting more area of land to trees,(by way of riparian planting or fencing off regenerating areas of bush) than what forestry will do under the one billion trees program? 

Yet, farmers are not allowed to account for pre 1990 native bush when calculating their carbon emissions!

Everywhere you look, you see ridiculous irony. I am starting to doubt whether 'good sense' will prevail. 

Richard Morrison is a Marton sheep and beef farmer and Federated Farmers Manawatu/Rangitikei provincial president.