2010-07-28

No country for farmers?


20 percent of New Zealand’s sheep and beef farms could be replaced by oxymoronic ‘carbon forestry’, if the ambitions of foreign owned carbon foresters and the Government are realised.

“Obviously the pending meat industry strategy has a new paradigm to assess, if the wishes of those who want to plant farm land in trees come to pass,” says Don Nicolson, Federated Farmers President.

"Don’t get me wrong, Federated Farmers strongly believes that farm forestry is an integral to farms where it’s suited. This makes the axing of the Afforestation Grants Scheme in preference to the Emissions Trading Scheme incredibly perplexing.

“Yet it’s the big overseas foresters that can’t see our food for the carbon. The likes of Ernslaw One (Malaysia), Blakeley Pacific (USA) and Rayonier New Zealand (USA) want to plant two million hectares of our farmland in trees.

“Two million hectares, if converted to carbon forestry, is a full fifth of New Zealand’s sheep and beef industry. What we are talking about is the loss of 2,800 farms, the loss of 11.4 million stock and the loss of another billion from our $5 billion sheep and beef industry.

“At this scale of planting, vulnerable regional economies, like the North Island’s East Coast, would be levelled. It’s the human scale that is being lost.

“Carbon forestry doesn’t need the same labour force as a farm and in some instances, after planting will require none. What will become of the shearers, mechanics, stock and station agents, builders or vets?

“Trees won’t support the labour force farming does in the heartland. If large scale conversion to trees takes place, it’ll rip the heart out of our rural towns and provincial centres.

“We simply don’t wish to see our living towns become ghost towns. What we want is profitable farming instead of these misguided legislated incentives not to farm grasses or annual crops for human food production.

“And for what end I ask? So that these foreign-owned foresters who control 72 percent of our pine forests, can all benefit from our hard earned dollars?

“That’s why farmers from Gore to Gisborne are stirred up. Our industry is under direct attack from naked self-interest and Federated Farmers will not stand idle and will increasingly expose these flaws.

“Our great opportunity as a country is to feed more people not less. That Government can’t see the contradiction in its recently passed policy is a mystery,” Mr Nicolson concluded.

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