The New Zealand government proposed on Tuesday to tax the greenhouse gases that farm animals produce when they burp. and urinating, as part of a plan to tackle climate change.

The government said that the agricultural tax would be the first in the world and that farmers should be able to recover the cost by charging more for climate-friendly products.

Naturally, the farmers quickly condemned the plan. Federated Farmers, the industry’s main lobbying group, said in a statement the plan would “tear the guts out of a small New Zealand town” and see farms replaced by trees.

Federated Farmers President Andrew Hoggard mentioned that farmers had been trying to work with the government for more than two years on an emissions reduction plan that would not decrease food production.

“Our plan was to keep farmers farming,” Hoggard said. Instead, he said farmers would sell their farms “so fast he won’t even hear the dogs barking in the back of the ute as they drive away.”

Opposition lawmakers from the conservative ACT Party said the plan would actually increase global emissions by moving agriculture to other countries that are less efficient in food production.

New Zealand’s agricultural industry is vital to its economy. Dairy products, including those used to make infant formula in China, are the nation’s largest export earner.

There are only 5.2 million people in New Zealand, but about 9.6 million (dairy cattle 5.8 million + beef cattle 3.8 million) and milkman and 26 million sheep.

The hulking industry has made New Zealand unusual in that about half of its greenhouse gas emissions come from farms.

Farm animals produce gases that warm the planet, particularly methane from cattle burps and nitrous oxide from their urine.

The debate in New Zealand is part of a broader global reckoning about the impact of agriculture on the environment and the steps some say are necessary for mitigation.

The Liberal Labor government’s proposal dates back to a similar but unsuccessful proposal made by a previous Labor government in 2003 to tax farm animals for their methane emissions.

Farmers at the time also balked at the idea, and political opponents derided it as a “flat tax,” even though a “burp tax” would have been technically more accurate since most methane emissions come from of burping.

Categorized in:

Tagged in: