Penalising efficiency

Federate Farmers President Bruce Wills:

. . .  The Green’s Gareth Hughes was using a verbal concealer since their plan to ditch the world’s most stringent Emissions Trading Scheme for a carbon tax wasn’t mentioned.

Not mentioning the tax to a farming audience. Was he too scared to do that or did he know he couldn’t answer the questions that would follow?

With Labour scratching the immigration sore ahead of the general election, the Greens are seemingly hitting their farming button. This may reflect the pressure they’re facing from the Mana-Internet hookup. Stranger bedfellows I have never seen but it is hellishly clever branding. Just as the word Green provides a cuddly cloak, covering up less than cuddly policies, the Mana-Internet Party is even more left wing but in the smart dress down clothes of a programmer.

All will be fine until Internet Party’s leader and spin doctor are publicly put on the spot with a highly technical question, like the relative merits of Dual stack, 6rd, DS light, 4RD, MAP-T, MAP-E. That’s when the cynical branding will be revealed for what it is.

And what is it? Not so much a marriage of convenience as a temporary odd coupling for electoral advantage in the hope the funder, Kim Dotcom will be able to escape extradition.

Meanwhile, the Greens’ rhetoric around agriculture maintains the illusion that agriculture is not in the ETS when we most definitely are.

From fuel to electricity to the famous number eight wire, all farming inputs are covered by the current ETS. While surrender obligations for farm biological emissions have been deferred, what Victoria University’s Professor Martin Manning told the Science Media Centre should be noted: “Agricultural emissions increased over 2009 – 2012 due to more export of dairy products. However, the longer term trend shows our CO2 emissions are increasing by more than those of methane and nitrous oxide from agriculture . . . substantial reductions in CO2 emissions are more important than changes in the other greenhouse gases.”

While biological emissions account for half of our emissions, that “more export” means we send offshore some 90 per cent of the food we produce.

There’s no free lunch because any carbon tax price would likely find its way into the retail price of milk among other staples. The targeting of farming also denies the reality that New Zealand agriculture has been cutting emissions in each unit of agricultural output by 1.3 per cent each year.

We’re also world leaders in agricultural greenhouse gas research. This makes a strange combination of the Greens’ view of farming as both fall-guy and cash cow.

Penalising our farmers for being the world’s most carbon efficient will not only reduce production and jobs but push production offshore to more carbon heavy farmers. Now where’s the global or local benefit in that?

While the Greens say sheep and beef biological emissions will be initially excluded, that’s an all-too obvious sweetener. In a carbon tax, sheep and beef farmers would still pay what they are paying now under the ETS and making them pay later for biological emissions is as simple as turning the regulatory knob.

Yet the reference to the cost of this economy of drought will stick in the craw of farmers who have been stung by Green Party opposition to rainwater storage. That includes the sheep and beef sector who are looking to water storage to reduce climate risk and improve business and farming models.

The differential tax treatment for biological emissions they propose may reflect that the Greens are starting to understand our farming system is world-leading in low carbon protein production. It is a pity they’re not yet ready to admit it.

 

The policy appears to be predicated on the stupid premise we must do our bit even though we are doing what we can through research and efficient production.

Our emissions are a tiny portion of the world’s. Adding costs and/or reducing production here will encourage our far less efficient competitors to increase it.

That would result in both environmental and economic losses.

 

 

 

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