NZ Election 2020: Farmers furious at Green Party's future farming plans

Farmers are furious with the Green Party's plan to introduce a new levy on the use of some fertilisers.

The Greens say farmers would be charged if they use artificial fertilisers - about $1500 a year for an average dairy farm and $1200 for a sheep and beef farm. A $297 million fund will be available to help farmers move towards low-emission agriculture and the use of palm kernel feed would be banned.

The Green Party were on an organic farm in Christchurch on Saturday, not only dangling their election carrots, but eating them too. 

Co-leader James Shaw announced the party's 'Farming for the Future' plan.

"The reality is that the way that we currently farm is accelerating climate change," he said.

The Greens say agriculture is responsible for around half of all greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed $297 million dedicated farming fund would move farmers to low emissions agriculture with things like a levy on artificial fertilisers, strengthened animal welfare rules and a ban on palm kernel feed.

"One thing we have heard very clearly from farmers is that, yes, they want to reduce their environmental impact, but many of them are stuck in the current system."

But while these farmers picked kale, other farmers say the Green Party is picking a fight.

"It's wrong, wrong, they're completely on another planet," said Morrinsville dairy farmer Lloyd Downing. 

Because when it comes to this planet, Downing says many farmers are already chalking up a gold star.

"We produce the cheapest and best animal protein in the world, we've got the lowest carbon footprint of any farmers in the world and our rivers and streams are the cleanest in the developed world."

He says palm kernel is a key carbohydrate feed for cows and the fertiliser levy would be just another tax on farmers.

"Any cost to farmers is a problem. We're living on the same income as we were ten years ago."

He says it's not only a cost to farmers but it's less money for the struggling rural communities.

But the Greens say all the money is going back to farmers to support the transition and this plan combined with the current Government's funding for the clean-up of rivers would equal a billion dollars of support for cleaner farming.

"So, it is a small contribution towards what is a massive programme of support for farmers and growers," said Shaw.

Some organic vegetable farmers say making sustainable changes is doable for all farmers.

"Moving more towards an organic approach is definitely possible with the right mindset, so, it does work so it's just about getting out there and doing it," said organic farmer Logan Kerr.

The Greens also say the current organic labelling and legislation is nowhere near robust enough and that too would be getting a major overhaul.

But a bit like yams, the party's plan isn't palatable to all.