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Farmers given a chance. I think National will screw it up for them.

Written By: - Date published: 8:11 am, October 24th, 2019 - 21 comments
Categories: bill english, Economy, jacinda ardern, Judith Collins, nz first, politicans, Politics - Tags: , , ,

One of the less endearing traits of National is their ability to screw almost anything up for short-term advantage regardless how it impacts those that they are purportedly trying to protect. Usually this comes from the results of in-fighting within the party.

Luke Malpass and Henry Cooke outline the emissions deal in “Government sets deadline for farmer emissions“. Unsurprisingly when you look at the political analysis, a lot of it concerns the probable infighting and short-term maneuvering of factions inside National.

The Government will announce plans on Thursday to make New Zealand the first nation in the world to fully fold agriculture into an emissions pricing scheme, with a comprehensive price on greenhouse gases introduced by 2025.

Stuff understands the Government will do this by accepting an agricultural sector proposal to give it those five years to develop a farm-level pricing mechanism separate from New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which the sector opposes. Farmers will pay no additional levies or charges in the meantime.

If this new scheme is not established, agriculture will be folded into the ETS by default in 2025 – a “backstop” measure neither the Government nor the sector wants to use. It could even be brought in as early as 2022 if the Government at that point felt agriculture was not moving fast enough.

I expect that having political meatheads around like Judith Collins will encourage sabotage of the agreement – as she has been doing for months now.  Unfortunately for such fools of National, there are some teeth at the back of the deal.

If this deal fails to produce a result of a viable scheme and eventual results, then the farming community will be tossed into the Emission Trading Scheme. 

Now I’d point out that the agricultural community and I both detest the ETS – but for different reasons.

Personally I think that the ETS was doomed from the start because it wasn’t suited to the purpose of reducing emissions. A simple tax on emissions  might be a blunt instrument, but it would have forced changes in the economic behaviour of consumers. The ETS was just a pork-barrel of exemptions, exceptions and outright fraud like the dodgy as shit overseas carbon credits that flooded and largely destroyed the market.

The farmers seem to have always taken several viewpoints. From the scientific illiterates unwilling to accept the basic science at all. Through to those who considered that the ETS provided no room for individual farmers to reduce their emissions (and thereby gain advantage over their neighbours).

There have been improvements by individual farmers even without the incentive of a ETS or whatever arrangement comes out of this deal. But it is patchy and overall the nett emissions from agriculture has been rising rapidly as a whole, even faster than their increases in production.

The primary reason that I can see is because the agricultural community appears to have been as fractured, incoherent, and only united in their opposition to the ETS. They sure as hell haven’t shown any signs of actually doing anything particularly positive except when forced to by local or central government. I’d be happy to be proven wrong in that assessment. But it has been noticeable in the last two decades that while every other sector of the economy as a whole has been steadily cleaning up their act while improving productivity, agriculture as a whole seems to have been both in denial and actually getting worse as they intensify production.

This political stalemate has been in place in the early 2000s when Bill English was riding a tractor around parliament’s steps being a  misogynist dickhead in a suit. The nett effect of agricultures dithering and National’s encouragement of it is that agriculture as a whole has escaped any real incentive towards reducing  emissions.

In the meantime, the rest of the population has been getting short on patience with the freeloading and head up the arse attitudes of the whole agricultural community as we pay for their stubborn and short-sighted attitudes.

While agriculture is an important revenue earner for the economy, it isn’t a high profit centre undeserving of special treatment. We export around 17x as much food by weight as we consume inside the country. The impacts of agriculture cause severe issues for many  other industries, especially profitable ones like tourism, while also raising costs of water treatment 

But if anyone cares to look at the profitability or even the employment and wages of our overseas agricultural earnings for the economy, it is pathetic compared to just about every other revenue sector from tourism to my tech sector – all of whom actually pay (albeit underpay) for their greenhouse emissions. 

Well agriculture now gets their chance to show their stuff and come up with something that incentivises their sector to reduce their greenhouse emissions – which are nearly half of New Zealand’s total emissions

Admittedly that ETS backstop initially won’t be as bad as it should be. NZ First has negotiated a deal that will negate the initial costs by 95%. But that really isn’t going to last. There isn’t much tolerance for further dithering by agriculture.

I’d suggest that the agricultural sector start by figuring out a way of keeping some of the more stupid short-term parasites from National from screwing up the focus. To meet this kind of deadline agriculture needs to do some serious work on the issue and stop  time wasting stupid stunts. 

There is also a pretty good political analysis by Cooke and Malpass in “Farmers get time, Ardern gets support for elegant climate solution

21 comments on “Farmers given a chance. I think National will screw it up for them. ”

  1. Sanctuary 1

    "…Farmers given a chance. I think National will screw it up for them…"

    Farmers won't need the National party to screw it up for them. The industrial-agricultural complex will agree to this for entirely public relations purposes with no intention whatsoever of adhering to their side of the bargain.

    The industrial-agricultural complex will simply calculate that if Labour wins next year then they'll still have to do nothing because it is most likely that they'll get a National government no later than 2026 that'll simply cancel the emissions scheme for farming.

    Sure, there is a overlap of one year between 2025 and 2026, but you can bet your bottom dollar that for that awkward period the industrial-agricultural complex will simply whip up a rural rebellion and you also put the house on Labour caving to that rural rabble rousing quicker than you can say "careerist neolib backdown".

    Basically, the industrial-agricultural complex has just got itself a five year window to ensure they elect a National government that will obligingly allow they to do nothing.

    The left never learns.

    • lprent 1.1

      Entirely likely, although I suspect that National as a mostly coherent organising force (compared to any of the agricultural organisations) will act as a cohesive force to bind all of the wastrals of agriculture together.

      But the end result of this politically is that agriculture will have had the chance that they urging since the early 2000's to try to do something effective their way. If they fail, or have National fail it for them – then they will have no defense when the rest of NZ shoves them into some thing very restrictive and designed to force rapid change.

      I'm sure that some of them and their children remember the effect of that kind of rapid change from the mid-1980s. I know that my partner does.

      Personally I am so glad that I decided at the end of the 1970s that SMPs were going to really damage agriculture, and avoided going off looking for a farming career.

      The point is that farmers who are interested in having a farming industry survive in NZ need to look at this deal closely and figure out how to make it work. They aren’t a very profitable industry for NZ. As a country we don’t need 17x our requirements in food production if they aren’t profitable. They need to learn to be more productive with higher margins offshore. And they need to have less downstream pollution and wastage affecting profitable industries.

      Agriculture isn’t going to get too many more chances.

      • Dukeofurl 1.1.1

        Profitable farming is there just they are expert at 'reducing taxable income ' through deductions and other means to come up with very little income that can be taxed.

        A family farm will be leased to the next generation, the lease payments being set so its enough to wipe out any tax. No capital gains or gift duty mean wealth is transferred tax free.

      • OnceWasTim 1.1.2

        "……. then they will have no defense when the rest of NZ shoves them into some thing very restrictive and designed to force rapid change"

        You mean as in something like a torture chamber or waterboarding?

        Think what that could do to the bleached teeth, collagen and botox synthetics.

        (Pardon and humble apologies in advance @ lprent, but I'm currently reading "How to be a Dictator: The Cult of Personality in the 20thC)

        • lprent 1.1.2.1

          I was thinking more about the removal of SMPs
          https://teara.govt.nz/en/government-and-agriculture/page-9

          However, the next six years were traumatic for farmers. The dollar was floated in March 1985; high interest rates drew money into New Zealand, raised the dollar's value, and reduced returns to exporters, who were usually paid in US dollars. The government phased out most support for agriculture, including fertiliser subsidies, tax concessions, concessionary interest rates, and help controlling rabbits and noxious weeds. Crown agencies began to charge for services such as meat inspection, animal health inspections, quarantine and farm advisory services.

          https://teara.govt.nz/en/government-and-agriculture/page-8

          From the late 1970s New Zealand faced low prices for its products and difficulty securing export markets. There was a stockpile of sheep meat. By the early 1980s, government support for agriculture was equivalent to 30% of the total output from farming.

    • That_guy 1.2

      Both you and the industrial-agriculture complex are assuming that there will be no significant climate-related events that change people's minds. Both assumptions are probably false.

      Extreme weather events do change people's minds (https://www.stuff.co.nz/science/116397981/extreme-weather-linked-to-greater-public-trust-in-science). There will be more of them (https://www.ipcc.ch/documentation/).

  2. Sabine 2

    "…Farmers given a chance. I think National will screw it up for them…"

    Farmers have a decision to make. And one would hope that their own wellbeing is dictated by something else then Paula Benefits need for another 1000$ pair of shoes, or No Bridges sad attempts at humor.

    Really. One would hope. If not, then maybe Farmers are fully responsable for the shit they care to overlook and pretend is not soiling their living room.

  3. Climaction 3

    If farmers don’t see this as the olive branch they have always requested to come to the party and help, they’re deluded.

    5 years is an extremely reasonable timeframe to get what needs to be done, done

    • lprent 3.1

      They only really need to demonstrate some reasonable progress towards doing something substantive over the next 5 years.

      But that would be more than they have managed as a group on the last 20. So far they really have only demonstrated how to increase irritation at stupid obstructionism.

      Oh well – off to work.

      • Climaction 3.1.1

        Better late than never seems to be an overriding principal the fight against climate change. Better than blaming a sector for the past when it can change. Unlike coal

  4. Dukeofurl 4

    What is weird is that Farm greenhouse gases are counted as part of NZs emissions but the tax payer covers the cost now.

    What is new is the source of the emissions having to pay directly.

    This should be the approach taken, saying its only removing government subsidies to farmers.

  5. marty mars 5

    "Well agriculture now gets their chance to show their stuff…"

    Yeah like they did with cleaning the waterways – can't swim in them, can't drink from them.

    What a joke – such weakness and disregard for the future of this country and people.

  6. Stuart Munro. 6

    It's always a problem with communities, that they are prone to be captured by self-serving spivs, instead of talented leaders. It is not that there are not plenty of farmers who have been paying some attention to the environment, trying out new ways of reducing their impacts, or diversifying to less extractive, higher value products like organic milk. But these have not been the public voices of the rural sector. The noisy ones have been the crude production mentality crowd, the cheap foreign labour dependent seigneurship, not the quality innovators who can create a sustainable high value future. I'm not hopeful – the dumb captured our fisheries long ago – and they're not coming back anytime soon.

    • cleangreen 6.1

      Yes Stuart,

      I live in the country mostly now around farmers with our 10 acres with our pet sheep, using organic systems mainly, and farmers are trying to adapt.

      The industrial policies were quite ingrained in them until five years ago we saw as they followed the usual dosing of sheep with heavy use of vaccines, and sheep dipping, and then using fertilizers with toxic chemicals that are bad for our river runoff systems.

      Now we see them using other more natural methods of saving our waterways so we give them a hands up for this.

      Problem was becoming far worse when we saw the arrival of big “factory farming”

      They are the ones that Government really should be going after now as they are polluting far more than is known according to what we are witnessing now.

      • tc 6.1.1

        Agreed, common sense is to not flog the land and is mostly prevailing as an obvious move for the next gen's succession and wellbeing.

        These larger group owned entities with farm managers, targets and practices that are driven from head office require attention.

        I'm still seeing a fair few unfenced waterways in my travels also aside from when rivers n streams rise and the herd ends up defacto in the waterway.

    • Very true @ Stuart Munro. But then when a few of the

      " the cheap foreign labour dependent seigneurship" are involved with exactly the 'skillsets' we supposedly require, they're subjected to the "computer says NO" mentality and are ushered out of the country as quickly as possible so that a few "self-serving spivs" can be parachuted in to take their place

  7. Peter 7

    "The agricultural community appears to have been as fractured, incoherent, and only united in their opposition to the ETS"?

    And while the agricultural community appears to have been as fractured, incoherent, and united in their opposition to the ETS, are they also united in a pro forma, knee jerk way in their opposition to the Labour Party?

    • lprent 7.1

      When I've been around farmers, I've generally found that they just didn't like politicians very much.

      However they did like local roads (preferably paved), didn't like unions much (including their own industry bodies), and were relatively morally conservative.

      So they tend to vote for current local MP and NZ First or National rather than being united against Labour.

      You may not be able to understand the distinction.

      Consider as a difference that unionists are ideologically united against National in their members self interest (with good reason). But often not supporting Labour. They tend to want more radical surgery than Labour, as a broad based party, can provide.

      Farmers are more self-interested in getting things that agree with their world view or that benefit them, but not particularly united against Labour. It is just that not that many of them vote Labour. Actually I suspect that more vote Green than vote Labour for the same reasons.

      But these days the number of rural voters voting NZ First is rising. That is because there is a pretty solid core of people in the rural regions who like the old-style moral and economic conservatism that NZ First has rather than approach of the urban National neo-liberals.

  8. gnomic 8

    "One of the less endearing traits of National"

    National actually has some endearing traits? I seem to have missed them during several decades of observation. And they seem to be going downhill in that regard under current management. Slimy attack ads for example.

    Have to agree about ETS however, never could see how this was other than a scam aimed at avoiding any meaningful action.

  9. WeTheBleeple 9

    Due to the numbers it may seem our Farmers are largely recalcitrant old farts but the fact is I read reports every day of new Farmers, organisations and initiatives coming on board to tackle water purity and carbon emissions. These Farmers are who other Farmers WILL listen to. These are salt of the earth hard working owner/operators who are reducing overheads alongside herd numbers, yet keeping profitability despite the calamitous naysayers.

    Now, some Farmers I've met are despicable human beings, but also, some builders, artists, businessmen, unemployed, etc etc. The bashing of the group in general is akin to racism where we hate them for the cut of their gib, looking no further than the red bands and stubbies to pour scorn upon.

    Seems to me that those old school everyone else is a fool type of Farmers will be called out/dragged in (to ETS) or shut down, and the sensible ones will get to keep the farm. I see no problem here as these are the loud and vocal haters and bullies who'll keep everyone in the dark ages as they're superstitious and stupid. There's a fair few but I'd wager a minority once their thrall is broken. Obviously it'd be nice to see more rapid change, but pragmatism raises its ugly head once again, as the alternative (a National Government) is about as useful to the planet as a Trump Presidency.

    In the interim, how are we townies adapting our land use? Still mowing the lawn every week? Got the cides to kill anything that looks to alter our perfect landscapes? I see armies of petrol driven petrol appliance wielding workmen everywhere every day cutting grass and trees down, constantly the truckloads of mulch, rarely ever a trailer of trees…

    The separation of progressive vs pigheaded farmers needs to occur. As a united front they're a 'too big to fail' type problem for NZ. This legislation, though it may seem toothless at first, can do such a thing. I hope we townies can differentiate between the two, encouraging and backing those who sorely need it, and keeping close watch on the mongrels to drop them in the hole of their own making when the time comes.

    • I suggest as a refresh from the toxic farmers stories – listen to Country Life on Radionz, they are usually lovely people and even if not, it is helpful to understand what their latest battle is – pests, early frosts, rain at the wrong time etc. We need to have rules we insist on that all are expected to follow, and get stuck into the nasties. And look after the ordinary farmers as even the National Party, the supposed farmers party, doesn't give a cowpat for rural people's needs except to make a show for publicity.

      https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/countrylife

      Country Life takes you down country roads to meet ordinary people achieving their dreams. We live in a beautiful country…

      Friday 9pm and Saturday 7am

      That will stop us having to wash our mouth out with soap. (Teacher did that to me at school when I was little, the nasty.)

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