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Bugger the Carbon Tax

Bugger the Carbon Tax

Anyone who thinks that farmers should be hit with a carbon tax for greenhouse gas emissions should think again, according to farm business specialist Peter Floyd.

Commenting on a recent report that many New Zealand soils were losing carbon, Floyd says that farmer experience shows properly managed pastures will steadily build up organic matter and very effectively lock up atmospheric carbon.

“If farmers manage fertilisers, grazing and animals correctly they will grow their soils and sequester considerable amount of carbon dioxide and hold on to nitrogen,” says Floyd.

“Good pasture management is not difficult to do. Some farmers in Australia are actively increasing soil depth and quality in this way, and are earning carbon credits. I believe New Zealand farmers could do ‘carbon farming’ even better.”

Loss of organic carbon from soils is a worldwide trend that is seriously affecting crop and pasture yields and animal health. However, Floyd notes that in New Zealand there is an increasing number of farmers working against that trend by reducing or eliminating the use of soluble phosphate and nitrogen fertilisers and establishing permanent pastures with a more diverse range of species.

“Strategies include maintaining pasture covers within the optimum range for leaf and root growth, becoming less reliant on supplementary feeds, and reducing pasture damage by stock. We have been able to measure the profitability of these changes and it is clear that the more sustainable practices reward farmers with worthwhile profits,” he says.

“On farms that have been using these strategies for some years the annual fertiliser and animal health bills have gone down dramatically, while profitability has increased.”

Australian scientists have calculated that a 0.1% increase in soil carbon across 10% of agricultural lands could sequester more than half of that country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. Studies in Northern NSW have shown that ‘carbon farming’ has increased soil carbon at double that rate over the past decade.

“We are convinced that growing soils as a carbon sink in New Zealand will be very good for the environment and will greatly benefit farmers by totally eliminating the need for any emissions tax. We are organising a farmers’ conference in Christchurch at the end of February to discuss the options,” says Floyd.

The Farming for Change Conference takes place at the Christchurch Town Hall on February 26-28, and includes a field day on two Canterbury farms.

For more information go to or phone 0800 433 276

Peter Floyd is the Managing Director of eCOGENT

Notes to Editors

Carbon farming is the term given to pasture, fertiliser and animal management practices that increase soil depth and quality and in so doing lock in atmospheric carbon. Many New Zealand soils are losing carbon, but alternative management practices are being used by some Australian farmers to become carbon positive (not simply carbon neutral) and earn carbon credits that are being sold on the international carbon market.

The Farming for Change Conference being held at the Christchurch Town Hall on 26-28 February includes addresses by Australian carbon farmers and US soil, plant and animal health specialists. It is the first of its kind to be held in NZ and the first two days of papers and field visits are open to the public.

Peter Floyd is a farmer/researcher who has specialised in strategic farm business management and is the developer of the eCOGENT Process, a total management system that focuses farmers on profit. One of its strengths is the unique ability to forecast the profitability of a change in management and to monitor and report the actual profitability as the change is happening. This makes it ideal for testing sustainable management practices.


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