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NZ farmers could be taxed on their cow’s indiscretions

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New Zealand’s government is proposing to charge farmers for their cattle’s bodily emissions, stating that the methane gas expelled is one of the major causes of climate change, not far behind the effects of carbon dioxide.

New Zealand is well known for its livestock industry, with sheep and cows believed to outnumber people. Authorities are now suggesting these animals that emit powerful greenhouse gases through both their rear and mouth orifices need to be held accountable, and their owners must be the ones that pay.

As part of the system of selling tradable emission credits, the government proposes that livestock farmers buy credits for the methane their animals produce.

“There is no question that we need to cut the amount of methane we are putting into the atmosphere, and an effective emissions pricing system for agriculture will play a key part in how we achieve that.” Said James Shaw, NZ’s climate change minister.

Methane is believed to be the second most rampant greenhouse gas in the world. It causes more warming than carbon after its release before dissipating into the atmosphere at a quicker rate, leaving the NZ government seeing it as essential to lower its emissions.

The proposed new ruling would mean farmers must pay for their livestock emissions as early as 2025.

The methane emitted directly by livestock accounts for around 5.5 per cent of greenhouse gases from human interaction. However, all livestock’s total greenhouse gas emissions, including manure storage and other processes, are believed to add up to 14.5 per cent of all global emissions.

As ludicrous as the plan sounds, there are at least incentives for farmers to try to reduce the emissions, such as a particular dietary plan that boycotts grain and grass and feeds the animals seaweed, which is believed to reduce methane production.

The planting of trees is also an incentive that has been put forward.

However, these incentives, as simple as they may seem, would be costly to the farmer and create additional work in what already is a labour-intensive and often thankless industry.

So the question should be asked – where does this new climate tax money go? 

The proposed new tax would be invested in livestock farmers’ research, development and advisory services. Still, the downside is that it would make all livestock products considerably more expensive due to the additional tax and labour involved. It would also add to the cost of wool, and other livestock uses and possibly cause a crippling ripple effect on the industry that would be near impossible to undo.

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