New Zealand farmers fumed about a new tax proposed by government officials Tuesday that would charge agriculturalists for greenhouse gases, biogenic methane, and nitrous oxide belched or urinated out from cows and sheep.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said such taxes would fuel the industry by funding new technology, research, and incentives for the farmers, The Associated Press reported.
“New Zealand’s farmers are set to be the first in the world to reduce agricultural emissions, positioning our biggest export market for the competitive advantage that brings in a world increasingly discerning about the provenance of their food,” Ardern said.
Reuters reported that the proposed plan would go into effect in 2025, making New Zealand the first country to impose a livestock emissions levy on farmers.
But farm workers feel unsettled about such plans, claiming it would “rip the guts out of small town New Zealand,” adding the country would see fewer farms and more trees.
Andrew Hoggard, president of the lobbying group Federated Farmers, said farmers have attempted to work with government officials since 2020 on a plan to reduce emissions while maintaining current food production levels. Still, the new plan would force them to sell their farms “so fast you won’t even hear the dogs barking on the back of the ute [pickup truck] as they drive off,” he said, per The Associated Press.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said that while farmers are already experiencing regular droughts and flooding, it poses an good opportunity for them and the country.
“Taking the lead on agricultural emissions is both good for the environment and our economy,” O’Connor said, according to The Associated Press.
However, opposing lawmakers said the plan would increase worldwide emissions by forcing other countries to make up for the lack of farming in New Zealand, which produces dairy products that are vital to its economy.
The Associated Press reports that while the country’s population caps at around 5 million people, the number of beef and dairy cattle in the country is double that size.
According to Reuters, the proposal goes to consultation before officials can pass and impose the law.
Government officials have pledged to reduce methane emissions from farm animals by 10% by 2030 and up to 47% by 2050, at which point they hope the country will be carbon neutral.