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Pricing Agricultural Emissions: Submission

Pricing Agricultural Emissions. Submission by: Rural Advocacy Network Date: 18 November 2022 (1) Rural Advocacy Network (RAN) was established in 2017 to advocate on behalf of North Canterbury landowners and rural communities on a wide range of issues. Most of our advocacy is related to environmental regulations. (2) We oppose any pricing on agricultural emissions (including the original He Waka Eke Noa proposal) for the following reasons:

  1. Pricing emissions is not the same as, or does not necessarily lead to, good management practices relating to emissions. Any assumption that pricing emissions will reduce emissions is incorrect. They are different concepts.

  2. Pricing emissions has different unintended consequences across sectors. Pricing agricultural emissions, particularly when there are no emissions reducing mitigations at scale currently available, will deliver multiple perverse outcomes and detrimental consequences for farmers, rural communities, the environment, and our country.

  3. Some of the consequences of an emissions tax on agriculture include:

    • Significant reduction in farmer spend to the detriment of local businesses and towns.

    • Environmental spend is one of the main discretionary items in farmers budgets. For many farmers the projected emissions tax is equivalent to 1 – 2 years of environmental spend. With less funds being available for environmental spend there will be a significant cost to the environment, and we question whether this has been considered or quantified?

    • Across New Zealand, including in our district, traditional farming families are exiting the industry fed up with unworkable regulations and the amount of compliance. Otago University research quantified that losing traditional farming families is detrimental to the environment because of the loss of environmental ethos built up over generations of the same family.

    • Business confidence in the rural sector is low, as too is farmer morale. An emissions tax compounds this crisis.

    • The threat of an emissions tax, combined with other unworkable regulations and policy settings that favour planting pines is driving large scale land use change. This will have major repercussions for rural communities and the environment. We agree that exotic forestry has a critical role in supporting the viability of many farms and assisting with erosion and weed control. The public concerns around pines are a result of poorly drafted climate changes policies and a narrow, short-term focus

on achieving targets, NOT an issue with pines themselves or policies relating to plantation forestry.

  • Risk of emissions leakage. We do not understand the logic in taxing and reducing the production of the world’s most emissions efficient food producers. This runs the risk of emissions leakage and increasing global emissions.

  • In our community farmers are volunteers for the St John ambulance service, Rural Fire, Civil Defence, school sports coaches and many other roles. They also are teachers; nurses and our long-time resident doctor is from a local farm. As farmers continue to exit the industry, loss of farms, job opportunities diminish and the loss or downsizing of local businesses the drop in population will hit services already struggling to attract volunteers and qualified staff.

IV. Emissions pricing agriculture is not supported by grass roots farmers. Any claims that farmers agree they should have their emissions priced is incorrect. However, we do agree that farmers need to be proactive in addressing environmental issues. (3) We submit that a considered approach to agricultural emissions is taken with the following steps:

  1. A comprehensive stock take is prepared that details what agricultural related emissions research is currently being undertaken, by whom and how funded, what it has delivered, and what (if any) gaps in research has been identified. This approach is consistent with how the National Science Challenge works. We suggest the emissions research stock take also reviews overseas research or new technologies that could benefit the New Zealand agriculture sector. Existing industry group levies would be our preferred funding mechanism if the stock take identifies more research work is required. We understand some of our industry levies already go towards emissions research. A fully costed and detailed proposal for future research needs should be prepared before any levy funding is agreed to.

  2. That initiatives relating to emissions focuses on actions on the ground and outcomes. We propose an industry coordinated and led initiative that implements a nationwide advisory system to assist farmers in relation to best practice around emissions and the uptake of new technology. It is imperative that this be done in an integrated way with all other environmental issues including freshwater and indigenous biodiversity. This nationwide initiative needs to work in with existing mechanisms such as Catchment and Landcare groups – it is about building on and empowering these existing initiatives and filling in gaps as they are identified. We submit the current policies in silos approach to environmental issues is leading to many perverse outcomes that are detrimental to the environment. An example is the large-scale loss of unique dryland indigenous biodiversity shrublands as government climate policies encourage landowners to plant their marginal land (which is where these shrublands are) in pines.

(4) We oppose the agricultural emissions pricing proposals put forward by the government and He Waka Eke Noa and submit that a new approach is taken that focuses on emissions best practice and actions, and a stocktake of emissions research rather than simply pricing/taxing emissions. We wish to be heard. Jamie McFadden Rural Advocacy Network 24 Mina Road, RD2, Cheviot 7382.

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