New Zealand’s Cow Burp Tax Proposal Angering Farmers

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The New Zealand government has attracted the ire of the country’s farmers after it announced a proposal to impose taxes on greenhouse gasses that farm animals emit as part of burping and urinating.

New Zealand—home to around five million people—has about 10 million dairy and beef cattle as well as 26 million sheep. Roughly half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to come from farm animals. According to the government plan, farmers will start paying for emissions beginning in 2025. The collected funds will be invested back into the industry for research and incentives for farmers.

New Zealand had pledged to make the nation carbon neutral by 2050, which includes cutting down methane emitted by farm animals by 10 percent by 2030 and by 47 percent by 2050.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor insisted that the proposed tax is good for both the environment and the economy, calling it an exciting opportunity for the nation’s farmers, according to the Associated Press.

Federated Farmers—a lobbying group for New Zealand farmers which had more than 13,000 members in 2021—has slammed the government move.

The plan envisaged by the government aims to cut down dairy farming by 5 percent, and sheep and beef farming by 20 percent, to achieve “the unscientific pulled-out-of-a-hat” greenhouse gas emission targets, Federated Farmers said in a post on Oct. 11.

“We didn’t sign up for this. It’s gut-wrenching to think we now have this proposal from government which rips the heart out of the work we did,” said Andrew Hoggard, Federated Farmers National president and climate change spokesperson.

“Our plan was to keep farmers farming. Now they’ll be selling up so fast you won’t even hear the dogs barking on the back of the ute [pickup truck] as they drive off.”

The Myth of Cow Emissions

Attempts to control emissions from farm animals are often based on the belief that such emissions contribute to global warming. In a 2019 interview with animal nutrition company Alltech, Dr. Frank Mitloehner, a professor in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California, Davis, dismissed such claims.

Mitloehner pointed out that there are three greenhouse gasses central to the global warming issue: carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane. Cows are being blamed for the methane they produce.

Both carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide have a “very long lifespan” and can last in the atmosphere for hundreds and thousands of years. However, methane only has a lifespan of 10 years, he noted.

After a decade, the emitted methane is destroyed. As such, if countries like the United States and New Zealand keep their livestock steady, they also keep the methane steady, thus never actually “increasing global warming,” he stated.

“All the emission inventories and all the media output that you hear assumes that all the methane that’s generated by, let’s say, cattle, adds up, but it doesn’t. At the rate it’s emitted, it’s being destroyed. That makes methane very, very different from the other gases. This is critical to know,” Mitloehner said.

Naveen Athrappully

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Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.



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