Looking forward to emissions trading scheme debate

Greetings from a soggy Club Marama where indeed the snow was of limited consequence as mid winter is a great time for snow!

A new normal is slowly and very painfully being established here and thank you to those who have expressed support over the past four months for me and my family.

One of the developments I look forward to as a result of the recent changes at the helm of Federated Farmers HQ is a constructive debate about the emissions trading scheme.

You may recall that I am somewhat underwhelmed by the foresight, vision and courage shown by the promulgators of the scheme (ETS) in its current form.

If my farm causes problems under the Kyoto Protocol rules i.e. more emissions in the first commitment period (2008-12) than were emitted in 1990, I am quite happy to pay to offset the emissions I can't find another way around. But, given that:

• In 1990 I had approx 7000 ewes and 250 cows both with replacements and I now winter significantly less, I think I have done my bit. The whole sheep industry is not so terribly different.

• The animals (grass fed) cannot produce more CO2 equivalent than they eat anyway (grass being photosynthesised from CO2), or they would be a perpetual motion machine!

• This would suggest that if farmers the world over are contributing to the oxidisation of soil carbon (which is what you would have to do to add to the CO2), and I believe we as a global industry, demonstrably, are doing that, then it is the land practices which are the problem - which it is!

Therefore:

• If there is a genuine desire to get more carbon in the soil, we ought to determine the practices that DO deplete soil carbon and apply whatever disincentive seems smart and let farmers sort out another way of doing things. For instance, it might be determined that applying 500kg/ha of urea is not so flash for soil carbon. So apply a Practice Altering Incentive Device (Paid), of say $1000/ton, and bingo, the problem goes away. Cultivation that leaves soil bare for months would be similarly treated, as would the use of chemicals IF used in such a way as to kill soil biology, which are rather important in the whole process of building stable-ish soil carbon.

The proposal to tax me at the place of slaughter of my lambs would have the effect of requiring not just me but all of my sheep farming colleagues to produce more lambs to pay the tax.

I am all for building soil carbon as without it you ultimately end up with desert and more carbon in the soil has only positives. Unfortunately the poorly conceived, dishonestly promoted (in a global sense) ETS takes us some giant steps in exactly the opposite direction.

I will show my support for what I hope will be a more constructive Federated Farmers by renewing my lapsed membership.

Good luck for a great spring.

- graham@maramaorganics.co.nz

Graham Clarke

 

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