PLUG argues that taxing agricultural production is really stupid

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The Primary Land Use Group (PLUG) has been around for about 5 years. The group was born when the rural sector became concerned about the change of plan of the Waikato Regional Council (PC1). This bureaucratic planning process spent over $35 million. This should have been spent working alongside landowners to improve water quality outcomes. We are concerned that HWEN’s current proposals will also lead to funding bureaucracy rather than producing answers to emissions issues.

PLUG is concerned that taxing agriculture either through the ETS or through the current HWEN proposals will not reduce emissions. PLUG, along with a growing number of other groups such as the great team at Groundswell, want to ensure that we develop and promote a more practical approach to reducing emissions from agriculture. A number of improved options have been suggested and should be considered

High priority, PLUG urges full support of the Paris Climate Agreement requirement which spells out an unequivocal need to PROTECT FOOD PRODUCTION. We note and are proud that New Zealand agriculture is among the most efficient in the world (emissions per kg of product). We don’t think the increased cost of production will do New Zealand consumers any favours. Similarly, limiting New Zealand’s efficient production encourages less efficient producers around the world to fill the gap. Note that New Zealand agriculture far exceeds its size and feeds up to 40 million people on the planet.

PLUG is very concerned that the proposals presented so far are too bureaucratic, costly, slow and the results are not certain.

Neither a “price tax” on agriculture nor the “ETS tax” is justified as an adaptation methodology. Going forward, Price Taxing AG and the ETS tax will have a negative impact on the New Zealand economy, while other major countries will continue to aggressively increase CO2 emissions.

We believe it makes sense to provide good science-based adaptive technology to the agricultural sector to improve our (energy) conversion efficiency in food production. This would reduce emissions leakage, lead to more efficient food production and lead to a reduction in total emissions.

PLUG believes it is valuable to link individual on-farm emissions data (such as that Fonterra has provided to its suppliers) to practical management options to reduce emissions leakage. The agricultural sector has proven that it is capable of rapidly appropriating the technology once the tools are available.

PLUG does not agree with the desire to put a “price on emissions”. This is of course another tax slang.

Finally, a new technology developed with a solid scientific base will provide interesting options for agriculture to reduce its emissions profile. There is a better way than ‘tariffing’ and taxation’. It is counter-productive, counter-intuitive and administratively costly.

PLUG recognizes that NZ AG should invest in finding solutions to our emissions profile. PLUG suggests using the current levy system to create a dedicated solution-only fund. Using the current levy process (farmer voting) provides farmers with true ownership which we believe enables rapid adoption of any worthwhile technology.

We urge our Levy organizations as well as the HWEN committee to recognize and promote ‘self-management’ of the issue by taking a tough stance and not accepting the Climate Minister’s threat of ‘Prize’ or being thrown into the ETS. Blackmail by any other name is blackmail.

Our government ministers should be above threatening such actions.

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