Opinion: Wairarapa farmer Mike Firth voices his concerns about the effects of carbon farming on sheep and beef land.
It's a pretty sad day when you sit inside reading an article in a popular farming paper and it's talking about carbon farming.
Who would have ever thought we could get paid for air?
I have never written about stuff like this before, but this is starting to piss me off.
How is it that you can work your arse off for an industry that you love, only to watch it start to disappear before your eyes?
How is it a company that doesn't even trade in New Zealand can purchase farmland here, and plant it in trees for carbon farming?
How is this beneficial to New Zealand?
I ask the Government - what is the end goal you have? Is it all of New Zealand in trees? What do we do then?
Yesterday I was at a family lunch and spoke to members of our family about this - they have no idea what's happening.
I explained that in 60 years those trees are useless. You can't cut them down, as then you'd have to pay back your carbon… so all we have is a wasteland.
I put it to them, that it will be like trying to buy an old dump site and building a house on it.
They were horrified.
I explained that when Air New Zealand asks if you'd like to make a donation that would offset your travel, that you are paying for farmland to be planted in pine trees and then left to become a wasteland once it no longer can sequester carbon.
What's the end goal, I ask again?
On the back of all this is carbon farmers buying land in excess of amounts sheep and beef farmers can pay.
You think your meat is expensive now - wait till we have even less of it in the world.
This out-bidding of sheep and beef land is only the beginning - if you do your sums on this, carbon farming will soon start to outbid dairy land.
I'm not joking.
Then, if it keeps going to match overseas prices, they will be able to outbid housing developers for subdivisions - instead of driving out of Auckland and seeing vegetable growers losing their land to housing, you will see pine trees!
I ask again - what is the end goal?
Listen to Jamie Mackay interview Mike Firth on The Country below:
Here the government is pushing for electric cars that we are powering from coal (go figure!), while on the other side of it they are pushing for companies to offset their emissions by planting trees on productive farmland.
I'm in disbelief as to how we have got here.
Since I was old enough to walk, I wanted to work towards one day buying a farm - and I have worked extremely hard.
I wanted my kids, who are mad keen on farming, to one day achieve the same goals.
But, sadly, through unthought-out policy, I don't think that will ever happen.
I ask farmers that are looking at selling their farms to think about all this, and maybe try to give other farmers a chance if they are close in their tender.
All of us want the best for this country and all I ask this Government is, "What is the end goal!?"
- Mike Firth is a 36-year-old Wairarapa sheep and beef farmer and father of three, running 10,500 stock units on 1800 hectares of leased steep coastal hill country.