National promises to shell out an extra $13m for ‘future of farming’
The government has taken a jab at Labour and the Greens’ tax-heavy approach to improving New Zealand’s environment – and has promised an extra $13 million for “the future of farming” to its farmer and rural sector supporters.
It has also set a target of doubling the value of the agritech industry to $6 billion by 2025.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says if National is re-elected, it will “turbocharge” the Sustainable Farming Fund by more than doubling its funding from $7 million to $20 million a year.
It would also be renamed the Future of Farming Fund.
Mr Guy says the money will help take emerging technologies and techniques, such as precision farming, and roll it out across the country using the Rural Broadband Initiatives.
“A cross-sector Future of Farming Panel will oversee the fund’s direction and drive the innovation and investment. The panel will include representatives from industry, science and environmental groups and other stakeholders.”
He says this will help produce high-quality food more efficiently and would help farmers strive to do that with as little environmental impact as possible.
“Our opponents might think punitively taxing farmers is the right approach but you won’t get better environmental outcomes by making farmers and regional New Zealand poorer.”
Last week Labour promised to set a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 if it is elected to government, with leader Jacinda Ardern saying all sectors, including farmers, would have to pay for their emissions within Labour’s first term.
Ms Ardern said the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) would remain at the core of Labour's plan to hit its emissions targets.
But, just days later, the Greens were promising to scrap the ETS altogether and replace it with the “Kiwi Climate Fund.”
The Greens plan to tax carbon dioxide emissions at $40 a tonne with a $6 per tonne for nitrous oxide from agricultural sources and $3 s tonne of methane emissions from agriculture.
That tax would help pay for planting 1.2 billion trees and the remainder would be divided up for every New Zealander over the age of 18 in the form of a yearly $250 dividend.
Mr Guy says working together is a much better way to achieve change than being “at loggerheads with the farming sector and regional New Zealand.”
“As we are showing already, we can achieve far greater things in new farming practices by working with farmers and not against them.
“There is a clear divide in this election between those who want to work with the farming sector and those who want to punish it, with four new taxes at last count,” Mr Guy says.
The new funding of $13 million a year will come from Budget 2018’s operating allowance.
The Green Party has accused National of stealing its policy but says the extra $13 million Mr Bridge has pledged won’t be enough.
Leader James Shaw says his party would invest $136 million in initiatives to “move to better farming.”
“Revenue for those ventures will come from a nitrate pollution levy charged on dairy farmers who continue to pollute our soils and water.”
But Federated Famers have backed National's move, saying it is a far more effective and useful approach than the tax and punish policies of some other parties.