Farmers shouldn’t fear the Greens | The Jackal

7 Sep 2017

Farmers shouldn’t fear the Greens

The Green party often comes up with policy solutions that the two main parties end up adopting. In fact they’ve been a very politically influential party on the cross-benches, helping government’s develop and implement good social and environmental ideas into workable solutions.

Their Clean water, great farming (PDF) policy is no different, and will likely be embraced by the next National (to a degree) or Labour led government, even if the Green’s aren’t a part of it. In this way the Green's have been the most effective opposition party in New Zealand's short political history.

On Saturday, Stuff reported:

Greens to tax pollution to help fund sustainable farming

The Greens are promising a tax on pollution, set to raise $135 million to be reinvested back into sustainable farming.

Green Party leader James Shaw said the policy would introduce a nitrate pollution levy charged on dairy farmers who "continued to pollute our soils and waters".

"There's no point spending money cleaning up rivers if you don't look at what's making them dirty in the first place," Shaw said on Saturday.

Shaw said the revenue from the levy on nitrate pollution from agriculture would raise about $136.5m a year, starting with intensive dairying, and would fund a package of "game-changing support measures" farmers could use to reduce their impact on the environment.

This is a fantastic and practical policy that will actually help farmers pay for things like riparian planting and other measures to reduce nitrates entering our waterways.

By rolling the policy out over a number of years the government could boost farmers who are already working towards sustainable farming practices.

In fact the farmers who are reducing their pollution levels now will be rewarded under the Greens’ scheme.

The levy would initially be set at $2 per kilogram of nitrate that was lost to land and water per hectare of farm, per year. Initially, the levy would apply only to dairy farms but a "fair pollution levy" would be extended to all forms of agriculture and horticulture over time.

"Dairy intensification over the last three decades is directly linked to rapidly declining water quality," Shaw said.

In other measures, the Greens would extend the Sustainable Farming Fund with an extra $20m a year and invest $210m over three years to create a Transformational Farming Partnership Fund, to focus on issues such as farming for clean water and adapting to climate change.

The party also promised to increase funding to the Landcare Trust to $16m over three years, reward tree planting by farmers and landowners, allow accelerated depreciation on dairy farm equipment to help farmers free up capital, and support organic farming through a new national certification scheme with new funding of $5m a year.

As well as being good for the environment, this policy looks set to help add value to our dairying sector. The world is crying out for organic products, which gain a premium price wherever they're sold.

Of course the largest lobbying group for farmers has opposed any type of restriction on nitrates from entering our waterways.

On Saturday, Radio NZ reported:

Farmers reject Greens' farming-pollution policy

Federated Farmers has slammed a Green Party plan to put a levy on nitrate pollution from dairy farming, saying it would actually cost the environment.

Federated Farmers vice president Andrew Hoggard said the idea was "unfair", "full of holes" and likely to actually cost the environment.

"They also come from other types of farming and they also come from urban sewage treatment plants. So if we're going to be fair about this than you've got to tax all of those, not just tax one sector of society.

I don’t see a problem with starting at the top first. Intensive dairying is by far the worst polluter, and should help pay to clean up the environmental damage they're causing.

It seems as though Hoggard didn’t actually read the policy release properly, because the levy would eventually be extended to all forms of agriculture and horticulture.

Furthermore, urban sewage plants treat their waste in a process that reduces environmental impacts. Invariably, people pay for that waste through their rates, so what is Hoggard talking about? It’s the leaching of nitrates directly into waterways that needs to be addressed.

Mr Hoggard said DairyNZ and others already offered research and expertise, and no government fund would be able to give better advice.

The levy isn’t just about advice… it’s about remedial measures to actually reduce pollution.

"Farmers are actually doing a hell of a lot in this space already, we're already doing quite a bit of work on this and if we're just going to be taxed for it, it's going to take away money which we would otherwise have spent on the environment and quite frankly I think they'd probably end up spending most of the revenue they get on policing it."

He said by his calculations it would cost his farm $12,000 a year, which could be spent on solutions.

What is Hoggard talking about? The money raised will go towards solutions, like making our waterways swimmable again by giving farmers a financial incentive to reduce pollution.

The problem for National is small farm holders will actually benefit from this policy. Most farmers will have additional funds available and any development to reduce pollution they undertake will likely increase their properties value.

A majority of farmers, especially those who adopt the scheme early, will reap the rewards of becoming more eco friendly businesses.

Most farmers have nothing to fear from the Greens' clean water policy. It’s large-scale intensive dairying that is being targeted with this great Green party initiative.