Comment: The Government should let farmers focus on continuing to produce world class food, not trying to negotiate complex tax systems, writes National's spokesman for Primary Industries, Todd Muller.

Last week the Government announced a broad agreement had been reached with the agriculture sector on how to approach the very complex challenge of reducing our emissions from sheep and cattle animals in New Zealand.

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Unlike our CO2 emissions, which we're all exposed to whether we're a farmer or city dweller via the carbon price, natural emissions from belching and urinating cows and sheep currently sit outside a pricing regime.

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The National Party believes they are right to do so.

We are currently the most emissions efficient food producer in the world - what matters is that we stay in this leadership position.

We believe standing still will only see us go backwards, so the industry agreement was sound because it commits significant collective resources to build on our world leading position.

We support the comprehensive roll-out of farm plans across our agri-sector.

We agree that before you can manage anything, you need to be able to measure it accurately, so we support efforts to improve on-farm data regarding emissions, particularly methane.

We support ongoing focus on innovation and science so farmers can have the tools to actually reduce the belching and urine patches.

We support the commitment to build sector-wide capability to ensure all farmers, not just our top performers, can demonstrate to anyone - whether they are a consumer in Paris, a regional council officer or school kids at a climate strike - that they are genuinely world leading.

National's spokesman for primary industries, Todd Muller. Photo / George Novak
National's spokesman for primary industries, Todd Muller. Photo / George Novak

What we don't support is the Government's ongoing fixation with farmers needing to be taxed for this behaviour to occur.

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Success for this Government is that a farm-based system has been designed to tax farmers into improving no later than 2025, potentially as early as 2022.

Success for the National Party is a profitable sustainable agri-sector, leveraging its position as the most sustainable food producers in the world, through the application of world class tools, management systems and people.

This is a core philosophical difference between our vision for primary industries and the Government's.

We believe that farmers have proven time and time again, that when consumer demand fuses with new technology available to be adopted into meeting that demand, our farmers respond.

Our New Zealand agri-story is one long arc of adaptation underpinned by flexible land use and embracing new technologies. All our competitors are subsidised, we are not.

You do not need to spend five years designing a complex tax or incentive system to facilitate that response.

In fact the opposite is true, if the Government vision holds, the sector will spend the next five years debating and defending their positions as the various on-farm tax systems are proposed, designed, refined and rejected.

In our view our primary industry should direct their efforts at clearly identifying the emerging consumer expectation for climate and environmental provenance, and ensuring all our farm product and systems can meet those demands.

Our farmers are superb at producing world class food. By 2025 consumers will be continuing to grow more demanding.

Give farmers the tools to respond and respond they will, taxing them is a distraction and not anchored in the practical reality of exporting quality food to the world.