I have just spent four hours with a lovely couple in their early 60’s who have had only two days away from their dairy farm in eight years. They work hard for every cent they have ever earned; they have a mortgage to pay and bills each month, mud in the winter, drought in the summer. This couple farm for a love of the life and their animals, but most of all they farm because they are farmers and I think it is disgraceful that they along with farmers around NZ are under attack by people who know nothing at all about what it is to be a farmer.
I am talking about the politicians, scientists and others, who I will call “misinformed sustaineologists”, who continue to call for a tax on emissions from our livestock. They do this even though they have no evidence to prove that pastoral farming does contribute a net increase of greenhouse gases. Nor will such evidence ever be produced. The Australian Government’s top Federal climate change advisor has said that agriculture in Australia may never be part of an emissions trading scheme because the science is not able to fairly measure agriculture’s greenhouse impact. Yet the NZ scientists line up to claim that farmers should be taxed. Why is that? Does the science on this side of the Tasman lack the integrity we are seeing in Australia?
I struggle for an answer here, I can understand prejudice and ideology in a Green politician, but I am disappointed that we may be seeing it elsewhere. It also indicates that farmers can not rely on the science of logic and reasoning to save them from this unjust tax. For if logic did prevail we could all agree to measure the carbon absorbed by the grass (at $30 per tonne this is worth $675 per hectare per year) and measure all the emissions and tax or credit the balance. But I am learning that taking logic and reasoning to an argument in NZ is like taking a knife to a gunfight. Deep seated ideology and prejudice are the guns that fire their shots at the hardworking farmers I see every day.
But the most hurtful blows come from those who should know better. Fonterra delivered a killer shot to its own farmer shareholders in a publication called “A Fonterra Guide to Climate Change Part 2” which did not acknowledge an author but did provide a foreword by Barry Harris, Chairman of Fonterra Sustainability Leadership Team.
The article states categorically that carbon absorbed by the plant does not count in the equation. The reason it gives for this is that three quarters of the carbon returns to the atmosphere. That is not quite true but more importantly it is no justification at all why the quarter that is absorbed by the plant, does not count. When I had finished reading the article I felt I had just consumed an item of propaganda not an item of fact and again I struggle for a reason why Fonterra would do this?
The most charitable answer I can come up with is that Fonterra does not write articles, its employees do and employees with jobs with sustainability in the title are going to do whatever they can to sustain their jobs, including using propaganda. Further more any reason or logic put forward that might question the need for such a job to even exist would clearly be unsustainable from the employees point of view.
But enough of charity, this is a battle make no mistake. Our opponents can be beaten on this one I can assure you, but farmers are going to have to stop relying on the likes of Fonterra and the other members of the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Consortium. This consortium do agriculture a disservice by their support of the inherently flawed Kyoto model that ignores the inconvenient truth that grass removes carbon from the atmosphere. Farmers will also need to find their own voice very soon because the Government is still looking to pass the ETS Bill before the election. To do this they may need the support of the Greens and as we all know too well both these parties prefer ideology to logic and reason.
So for the hard working couple I saw today and all those others out there now in the mud and the rain there are only two options. Work even harder to pay the new unjust tax or get angry at this attack and start fighting back (but not with a knife). Logic and reason will not work because our opponents understand neither, but maybe putting a human face to the debate may show our opponents that not only are their attacks outrageous and unjustified, they are personal.