WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – Farmers across New Zealand took to the streets on their tractors on Thursday to protest government plans to tax cow burps and other greenhouse gas emissions , although the gatherings were smaller than many had expected.
Pressure group Groundswell New Zealand has helped stage more than 50 protests in cities and towns across the country, the largest involving a few dozen vehicles.
Last week the government proposed a new farm tax as part of a plan to tackle climate change. The government said it would be a world first and farmers should be able to recoup the cost by charging more for climate-friendly produce.
Because agriculture is so important in New Zealand – there are 10 million beef and dairy cattle and 26 million sheep, compared to just 5 million people – around half of all greenhouse gas emissions greenhouse come from farms. Methane from cattle burps makes a particularly large contribution.
But some farmers argue the proposed tax would actually increase global greenhouse gas emissions by shifting farming to countries that are less efficient at producing food.
At the protest in Wellington, farmer Dave McCurdy said he was disappointed with the low turnout, but said most farmers were working hard on their farms during a period of good spring weather at a particularly busy time of the year. ‘year.
He said farmers are good stewards of the environment.
“It’s our life, our family’s life,” he said. “We’re not here to destroy it, we wouldn’t make any money. We love our farms. That’s what annoys us. We are painted on these villains, but many farmers have spent generations tending these lands.
He said the proposed tax did not take proper account of all the trees and brush he and other farmers had planted, which helped sequester carbon and offset emissions. He said if the proposed tax and herd cuts go ahead, it would be ruinous for many farmers.
“I got out,” he said. “Waste of time.”
Agriculture remains vital to the New Zealand economy. Dairy products, including those used to make infant formula in China, are the country’s main source of export revenue.
McCurdy said farmers almost single-handedly kept the economy afloat during the COVID-19 lockdowns, and now that the threat had passed and a recession loomed, the government was chasing them.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has pledged the country to become carbon neutral by 2050. Part of this plan includes reducing methane emissions from farm animals by 10% by 2030 and up to 47% by 2050.
The government had worked with farmers and other groups to try to come up with an emissions plan that they could all live with. But many farmers were infuriated by the government’s final proposal, while environmentalists said it didn’t go far enough.
Farmer Matt Swansson said he had “got the guts” from the government and would consider refusing to pay the new tax.
He said on nice evenings on his farm, he thinks he has the best job in the world.
“But when it rains, drizzles, and you go home and listen to the news,” Swansson said. “Why are you bothering? »