Farming leaders are roundly condemning a new government proposal for pricing agricultural emissions, saying it lacks detail and comes as the sector is facing a significant drop in income.
It appears the government has for a second time failed to secure a working relationship with the primary sector to address agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, accentuated by the leaders being given just one day’s notice of the policy announcement.
Beef + Lamb New Zealand (BLNZ), the Meat Industry Association (MIA) and DairyNZ are all scathing of the proposal announced today, saying they are dismayed arbitrary deadlines have been set when there is so much detail to be finalised, such as pricing and acknowledging sequestration.
BLNZ and the MIA said in a statement that there is no justification for reporting emissions from late 2024 and pricing a year later, given the sector’s progress in reducing emissions.
“The focus should be on setting up a practical and cost-effective emissions measurement and reporting framework, and ensuring issues like sequestration are resolved and there are viable mitigation tools available before any pricing is considered,” the groups said.
DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel described the announcement as thoughtless.
“Dairy farmers are facing significant pressure right now, with business viability under threat.
“The issue of emissions pricing is of huge importance behind the farm gate, and we all need to keep our farmers top of mind. We will continue to work with government on this to seek a workable solution. No deal is still better than a bad deal,” he said.
The new policy approved by the cabinet and announced today addresses some but not all of the aspects of the proposal that the primary sector walked away from in June.
It delays the requirement to report farm-level emissions by almost a year and pushes the pricing of those emissions to late 2025, but a review of methane targets and their impact on global warming is not included.
It also potentially raises new areas of conflict such as uncertainty about recognising sequestration and mitigation options.
BLNZ chair Kate Acland said it fails to acknowledge progress by the sector.
“They’ve been reducing emissions by 1% annually for the last 30 years so this policy will simply drive down our production and result in other, less-efficient countries taking our place and pushing up global emissions,” she said.
Given the importance of the sector, Acland said, it is essential time is taken to get this right.
She wants methane targets reduced to reflect the latest science and reports on warming in addition to emissions.
The MIA also has concerns.
“Initiatives like the AgriZero partnership between agribusiness and the government show we are committed to accelerating the reduction of agricultural emissions,” said MIA chair Nathan Guy.
“Although the government has moved on from the blunt processor levy, the fact that it has taken such a long time to reach a decision that doesn’t meaningfully advance critical issues such as sequestration and viable mitigation tools is extremely disappointing, especially as the ball has been squarely in their court since November last year.”
Federated Farmers President Wayne Langford described the announcement “as completely tone-deaf to the reality rural New Zealanders are living with”.
Farmer confidence is at an all-time low, lamb prices have dropped 25% in the past 12 months, and the milk price has fallen from $9.30/kg MS to a forecast $6.75.
He says the He Waka Eke Noa partnership presented a credible plan 18 months ago, but there has been nothing but silence from the government since.
“What the government have come back with is not a plan that’s been designed in partnership with the sector, it’s the government plan and we have serious concerns about the impact it will have on New Zealand farmers.”