Shut Up, If You’re Going to Take Our Money

I live smack in the middle of dairy country in Tasmania. While my personal experience of the dairy industry is limited to occasional stints as a farmhand, I talk to farmers a lot. These folk aren’t the knuckle-dragging yokels city-based greens seem to think they are. Many of the new generation of farmers have degrees: about 30% of Australian farmers have bachelor degrees, and Ag Science courses are surging in demand. Farmers are quickly adopting new technology to maximise yield and lower water use: hence the astonishing proliferation of computerised irrigators across the landscape in recent years.

So when mega-millionaire elites from the most urbanised centres of the world alight from their private jets and start lecturing farming communities about “carbon emissions”, farmers tend to get a bit antsy. ASB rural economist Nathan Penny is a bit more polite than my farmer friends, but he still thinks that James Cameron is talking through his gold-plated arse.

Since you are locals now, we may as well also let you in on some of our best-kept farming secrets:

Pasture-based New Zealand dairy production is the most carbon efficient dairy farming system in the world. In fact, you can ship a glass of New Zealand milk to the next most efficient country (Ireland) and drink it there and it still has a lower carbon footprint than an equivalent Irish glass of milk.

In addition, pasture-based New Zealand beef production is top dog in the global carbon efficiency stakes.

Moreover, while agriculture might make up a disproportionate slice of New Zealand’s carbon emissions, that figure is still ridiculously low. Half of bugger-all is less than bugger-all. In fact, New Zealand’s greenhouse gas per capita output is 7.8 tons.

On the other hand, Los Angeles’s is 13 tons. Guess which industry is responsible for a whopping slice of that stinky, carbon pie? The movie industry is the second-biggest contributor to LA’s gargantuan carbon footprint.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s farmers do something a whole lot more useful than churn out dumb action movies.

You might have already heard that our agriculture produces around half of the country’s carbon emissions, and while that sounds like a lot, the New Zealand agriculture sector produces enough food for around 50 million people or 10 times our population.

But what about almond-fussing ‘alternative food manufacturers’?

We also know to take the sustainability claims of alternative food manufacturers such as Impossible Foods (meat) and Perfect Day (dairy) with a large grain of salt. For example, New Zealand dairy has a much lower carbon footprint than Perfect Day milk on a like for like nutrition basis.

As you rightly pointed out on Sunday, farming is in our DNA and you also noted that New Zealand farmers have that good old number 8 wire mentality. But there’s another secret that you may not know about Kiwi farmers. That is, they’ve had to farm effectively subsidy-free since the 1980s. In this context, our farmers have had to get smart and quickly, finding efficiencies that other (subsidised) farmers globally don’t even know exist.

Meanwhile, the luvvies in the movie industry keep on pocketing those sweet, sweet taxpayer dollars, even as they keep wagging their soft, manicured fingers at the people who actually work for a living. In fact, producers of a certain movie recently threatened to bring in the lawyers if the government turned off the siphon of hundreds of millions of taxpayer’s dollars.

Word to the wise: if you’re going to trouser people’s money, it doesn’t pay to simultaneously lecture them on how awful they are.