Farmers in New Zealand have engaged in nationwide protests today (Thursday, October 20), against proposals by the government to introduce a levy on agricultural emissions.

Protests across Auckland and Wellington led by grassroots group Groundswell NZ have taken place in an attempt to halt proposals which seek to introduce a farm-level, split-gas levy for pricing farm emissions from 2025.

Over 45,000 farmers previously signed up to participate in the protests, according to the group, which added that the tax will reduce sheep and beef production by 20% and dairy production by 6%.

Under the proposals, farmers would have to pay levies related to the amount of methane and long-lived gases emitted, based on information including farm area; livestock numbers and production; and nitrogen fertiliser use.

Farmers have been protesting in New Zealand today. Image source: Groundswell NZ, Facebook

Farm organisation Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) has raised concerns about the government’s “significant changes” to what the agricultural sector initially proposed through the Primary Sector Climate Action Parternship, He Waka Eke Noa.

In a statement today, the organisation said: “We share farmers’ frustrations and concerns about the government’s proposals for the pricing of agricultural emissions.

“Those changes fundamentally alter the balance of the agriculture sector’s proposals and are not acceptable. B+LNZ is committed to getting a result that is fair and does not threaten the viability of our farms and rural communities.”

Farmers have been protesting in New Zealand today. Image source: Groundswell NZ, Facebook

These proposals will lead to food scarcity and higher food prices, according to Groundswell NZ, while New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern believes they will enhance the country’s potential to become the most sustainable exporter in the world.

“I genuinely believe our food producers are the best in the world – but we can also be the best for the world too. This is how we continue to carve out a high value space for our exporters, but also, do our part on climate change.

“We know that consumers care deeply about where their food comes from and how it is produced,” she said.

Farm emissions levy

Prime Minister Ardern recently launched a public consultation on the government’s “world’s firsts” proposals to reduce agricultural emissions, which account for half of the nation’s total.

It is proposed that the levy is used to fund research and development into tools and technology to help lower on-farm emissions, and provide incentive payments for farmers.

The consultation mentions recognition for some types of sequestration, and payments for farmers and growers (from levy revenue) for additional sequestration occurring in riparian vegetation and arising from managing indigenous vegetation.

Changes in terms of on-farm carbon sequestration have been described as “extremely concerning” by B+LNZ, saying that they can’t understand why the government pulled back on recommendations.

The public consultation on the government’s proposals will remain open until November 18.