New Zealand unveils plan to tax cow farts

Eco-friendly tax scheme faces opposition from local farmer groups

The New Zealand government has proposed a plan to tax greenhouse gases created by farm animals, hoping to cut carbon emissions as part of a decades-long climate change initiative, despite the virulent criticism of agricultural organizations.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the proposal on Tuesday morning, saying the plan was the first of its kind ever attempted and would put New Zealand on track to meet its methane emissions reduction targets over the next decade.

“No other country in the world has yet developed an agricultural emissions pricing and reduction system, so our farmers stand to benefit from being the first to act,” she said, adding that “Reducing emissions will help New Zealand farmers not only be the best in the world, but the best for the world.”

Under the proposal, farmers who meet the herd size and fertilizer use thresholds would be required to pay a levy for the methane and nitrous oxide gases created by their livestock – earning the program the unceremonious, if somewhat misleading, title of “fart tax” (most methane from cows is released as burps).

If the plan gets final approval by the end of the year, tax payments will start in 2025 and be taken every one to three years. The exact amounts are yet to be determined.

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According to the government, the revenue generated by the taxes would be devoted to the research and development of green technologies, as well as “incentive payments” for farmers who adopt environmentally friendly practices.

The scheme is part of a longer-term goal to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but has already been condemned by local farmer groups and opposition lawmakers.

Federated Farmers, a major lobby group, said the tax proposal “Tearing the guts out of a small town in New Zealand” and put “trees where the farms were.”

“Federated Farmers is not at all impressed with the government’s stance on the…proposal and is concerned about the future of our members,”the group’s national chairman, Andrew Hoggard, said.

Beef and Lamb New Zealand and DairyNZ also expressed concerns, with the latter organization saying that if Tuesday’s announcement was “another step” towards a new system, there was still a long way to go to “to do things well” for farmers.

Given that nearly half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are linked to its agricultural sector – which has some 10 million cattle and 26 million sheep – similar ‘fart tax’ proposals have been launched in the past. A move in 2003, however, met with major resistance from farmers across the country, sparking a massive protest that saw hundreds of people gather in the streets of Wellington, some bringing their cows and tractors.

More recently, farmers in the Netherlands staged large demonstrations to protest similar emissions taxes, blockading a number of supermarket warehouses while clashing with police. These protests have continued, with several farmers arrested last month after they parked six tractors on a street in The Hague and refused to leave.

READ MORE: Dutch farmers block supermarket warehouses


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