31 Jan 2022

Agricultural emissions pricing options presented to farmers at national roadshow

4:59 pm on 31 January 2022

How on-farm emissions should be paid for will be up for debate at a series of meetings being held in provincial New Zealand from next week.

The paper road to the river runs through Bill Shepherd's dairy farm.

File image. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

In 2019 the government announced the sector would have to start paying for emissions from 2025, and the industry was given time to develop a way to measure and price them.

Industry partnership He Waka Eke Noa - which includes groups such as Dairy NZ and Beef and Lamb NZ - has come up with two options to pay for emissions and is set to put them to farmers in the nationwide roadshow which begins next week.

Under the first option, a farmer would pay for their net emissions at farm level. Under option two, emissions would be calculated at processor level, based on the quantity of product received from farms.

Feedback from the roadshow will help He Waka Eke Noa choose one option to present to the government in April.

If the government does not approve, agriculture emissions will be put into the NZ Emissions Trade Scheme.

With the country now in the red setting of the Covid-19 traffic light system, some meetings have been changed to online webinars and others have been delayed by a week.

Beef and Lamb NZ chairman Andrew Morrison said because of the time needed to adapt roadshow arrangements, it was investigating an extension to timelines.

Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard said was not the best time for farmers to engage in the road show as they were busy ensuring food was getting on tables around the country.

"I've written to the prime minister asking her to delay the 30 April deadline for our sector to respond to emissions pricing options until the nation is back in 'orange' traffic light setting.

"Farmers deserve a proper consultation process and the chance to give their feedback on this topic, and discussions need to be face to face. It's unfair and unrealistic to try and do this online - especially when internet is patchy in some districts."

It was also unfair to expect farmers and others to turn up to meetings when all New Zealanders are being urged to stay safe and avoid potential 'spreading' events, Hoggard said.

The prime minister has been approached for comment.

Farmers looking forward to getting answers

Hawarden sheep, beef and deer farmer Andrew Rutherford had a glance at the two options and was looking forward to attending his local meeting.

"I think like a lot of people I'm looking for answers, it will be good to try get my head around it because it's really complicated - the main thing we want to know is how much it's going to cost."

If Rutherford had to choose an option it would be the on-the-farm levy as it accounted for work farmers were doing to offset emissions.

"We understand the importance of having a low footprint and the benefits that can come from doing so, we sell our wool through Merino NZ which uses our low carbon footprint as a positive when it comes to marketing.

"The farm has a lot of native cover and dad has been focused on planting trees for years so if we can be rewarded for the positive things we're doing on farm that would encourage others to do the same."

North Canterbury farming leader Winton Dalley said many farmers in the region had not taken much notice of the He Waka Eke Noa process to date but he was encouraging everyone to head along to one of the meetings whether online or in person.

"I'll be heading along to let them know I think they've got it all wrong, I think they've tried in good faith to get some good options but the reality is they are both unfair to agriculture.

"What they're dealing with is previous governments locking agriculture emissions into the Paris Accord and it's probably pretty difficult to unwind that. But the reality is that emissions from livestock and the sequestration of carbon on farm is not accurately and fairly accounted for, which is the major issue."

Dalley said he would love to turn back the clock and start the process again.

"Pragmatically, we're not going to have a minister or government that are going to do that at this point of time so I guess people will be forced into choosing between the options," he said.

Farmers were guilty of not getting involved in the process as many did not feel they had the expertise or understand the science, he said.

"But it's important people head along to the meetings to get a better understanding and to ask questions."

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