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Farmers 'forgetting' taxpayer millions spent on research benefiting agriculture

"It is extraordinary to see Federated Farmers objecting to a research levy of $8.4 million a year when taxpayers provide at least $40 million a year for research benefiting farmers, says the Convenor of the Ministerial Group on Climate Change, Pete Hodgson.

"Federated Farmers seems to have become wilfully blind to the millions of taxpayer dollars spent on research benefiting agriculture. This includes at least $40 million a year for research on animal health and welfare; new products, processes and technologies; quality, safety and market access; sustainable systems and communities.

"In objecting to a modest levy for additional research into their industry's own greenhouse gas emissions, farmers have suggested that they alone will be taxed to research this environmental problem. The truth is that taxpayers have been paying for research benefiting farmers for years and will continue to do so."

A recent independent assessment of climate change research funding reports that:

· the total investment in climate change research from 1999-2001 was $23.5 million a year;

· 90 percent of this funding came from Government;

· Government funding for agricultural greenhouse gas research has increased more than five-fold since 1999.

"Taxpayer funding of agricultural greenhouse gas research is almost $5 million a year and will continue at that level. At this stage the agriculture sector is contributing $800,000 to research in this area, through the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium.

"The case for the agricultural sector to fund extra research is very strong on the grounds that the sector is responsible for more than half New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions, yet it is being exempted from the emissions charge that will apply to other industries. It is overwhelming when you add the fact that this research, if successful, is likely to increase animal productivity and therefore farmers' incomes."

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