Jeanette Fitzsimons
Farming and the ETS – the latest from the select committee

Monday we heard all the farming related submissions. You can see those submissions which have been released here. In a couple of weeks the transcript of our discussion will be available too.

Federated Farmers continued to be the most extreme – agriculture should be entirely left out of the ETS because food production is important. Actually, many industries and sectors – the steel industry, for example, have argued the same thing, so it’s not clear who would be left in if we agreed to exclude everything that is important. That aside, they do have a point that people have to eat and the world is facing a food shortage. Most other countries are not including their farming emissions at this stage. But in most countries farming is around 10-15% of their emissions. It’s not hard to say “we’ll ask a bit more of our energy and transport sectors to avoid the complexities of dealing with agriculture”.

However, in NZ methane and nitrous oxide from farming are the large half (51%) of our emissions. Leaving them out means taxpayers fork out a hefty subsidy to farming, or other energy users pay twice as much as they otherwise would. It is interesting that other farming submissions – eg Fonterra – did not ask for complete exemption but wanted emissions to be able to rise as production rises.

Much of the argument hinges on the claim that there is nothing farmers can do to get their animals to burp, fart and pee less, so if the world wants food, farmers should not be held responsible. This claim doesn’t sit well with the other demand of farmers, that the point of obligation – the point where emissions are measured and accountability lies – should be not the processor (eg Fonterra, which would hugely cut the compliance costs) but the individual farmer, so that efforts made on the farm to reduce emissions can be rewarded. If there is nothing farmers can do, why would they want that?

The current state of the science, as I read it, is that there are no technologies at present to reduce methane emissions, though changes in feed composition, gut bacteria and genetics all offer some hope for some years down the track. Quite a lot can be done though to reduce nitrous oxide emissions. For more discussion of these measures see the Sustainability Council report The Carbon Challenge.

Emissions will be much lower per hectare if the stocking rate is lower, and some farmers are finding it pays to run fewer stock and feed them better and greatly reduce input costs like supplementary feeds and vet fees (because the animals are healthier). Organic regimes may produce lower emissions because they store more carbon in their soils, but this has not been studied to the point where anyone can benefit from it.

Wet soil that is compacted will release its nitrogen faster so keeping animals off wet soils and avoiding pugging will help. Herd homes are a new idea to keep animals warm and dry and needing less feed in cold wet weather for the 20 or so hours a day after they have finished their ration of fresh grass. I was hugely impressed with the one I visited in the Waikato recently.

Applying less urea will reduce nitrous oxide too. This needn’t mean less production – I visited a farm recently where urea applications have been reduced to a seventh of what they were, with no loss of production, through careful nutrient budgeting.

Then there are nitrogen inhibitors – a great lark by the fertiliser companies who first sell the farmer some nitrogen fertiliser (eg urea) then sell another product to slow down the rate it turns into nitrous oxide (which also slows down the runoff into waterways and increases the uptake by the pasture, which is what you want). This seems to work well on some soils and not at all on others, but the monitoring in real life situations is not finished yet. There are also some questions about adding yet another chemical fix to the soil and its possible effects on soil microbiology.

The trouble is, none of these measures, except the lower stocking rate, are sufficiently measurable yet to be accepted by Kyoto as mitigation. So NZ’s emissions liability will not be reduced even if our farmers do reduce their actual emissions.

The need here is clearly to direct more research into verifying and measuring these effects, and to go in to bat at Kyoto for those measures to be recognised in assessing our emissions and therefore our obligations. Officials are advocating hard for nitrogen inhibitors to be counted – probably because they are products and you can count sales, and they increase GDP – but don’t seem to be doing anything to get recognition of sustainable practices which might reduce emissions at less cost.

Clearly there are things farmers could do to protect the climate, but at present they will not reduce their carbon obligations. The research the NZ Government does, or does not, fund; and the advocacy they do or don’t make at Kyoto will determine the options our farmers have. Getting proactive about these things and insisting Government support the recognition of sustainable practices at Kyoto might be a more productive place for the Feds to put their energy.

A final irony – for as long as farmers do not face a price on carbon, some or all of the benefits of this will be capitalised into the price of farm land. Farmers reap that benefit when they retire or sell. Higher land prices will increase the incentives for foresters to deforest and sell their land for dairying, thus increasing emissions more. It will also make it harder for foresters to acquire low quality farmland on marginal hill country to plant forests. And the problem I wrote of in my last blog, where intergenerational farming by iwi who will never sell but pass on to the next generation, and so never capture the capital gains, gets worse.

We need an all-inclusive price on carbon emissions.

112 thoughts on “Farming and the ETS – the latest from the select committee

  1. How many degrees will global temperatures decrease by if they engage in all these practices?

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  2. How much will we, the non-farmers have to pay if they don’t?

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  3. Why should we pay anything? We’re neither the cause, nor can we affect, global temperature.

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  4. We should only pay for the effect that we have on global temperatures, no more, no less. That can only be assessed by measuring the amount of ‘heat causing’ activities we engage in. Measure of ‘warming gases’ production and calculate what we should pay. Fair enough?
    Great savings, of couse, could be made by reducing the production of those warming agents. If we produced none, we’d pay nothing!

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  5. Simply exclude agriculture from the next round.

    NZ should never have agreed to it in the last round as there was no pressure to do so. Go sacrifice someone else, Greenies.

    “”Climate change is a global issue and it demands global solutions. New Zealand’s farmers act globally by farming locally. That’s how we are able to feed almost one percent of the world but generate only a tenth of that in emissions. This efficiency must be the starting point for negotiations.

    “Look at it like this. Germany is considered one of the greenest countries in Europe yet its agricultural system emits a massive 3.5 times the emissions our farms do. Despite it being such a major producer of greenhouse gases it is one of the least efficient agricultural producers. “”

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  6. >>Measure of ‘warming gases’ production and calculate what we should pay. Fair enough?

    No. Far too simplistic. See above.

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  7. New Zealand’s farmers act globally by farming locally
    Har har! Oh yeah, baby!

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  8. That’s how we are able to feed almost one percent of the world but generate only a tenth of that in emissions.
    That’s marvelous. All credit to our farmers. Now, if we can just tidy up what we owe for that ‘one tenth’, we’ll be square, globally!

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  9. As usual BP, you abdicate personal responsibility and claim that you don’t matter. No one is suggesting that we pay more than our share.

    You still don’t answer my challenge: Do you also refuse to pay your taxes because in the bigger picture, they really are insignificant?

    Do you abdicate all your personal responsibility this way?

    Are you really that lazy and irresponsible?

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  10. Jeanette,
    please help me understand some of this as I’m a layman in this stuff.

    Re

    leaving them (farm emissions) out means taxpayers fork out a hefty subsidy to farming, or other energy users pay twice as much as they otherwise would.

    If we leave farm emissions out of the Kyoto calculation, as all other countries seem to be doing, doesn’t this mean that our total ‘Kyoto’ carbon production is just about halved, and so our forests and other carbon consumption/storage needs to be less to ‘break even’ and if more will provide us with credits? If so, how does this result in us paying twice as much?

    In similar vein, while farming may produce 51% of our carbon, the actual volume of that carbon compared to farm carbon production of countries such as Canada, the USA, Venezuela, Great Britain, etc., is probably on a par, although as a percentage it isn’t as they have bigger manufacturing sectors than we do – so on a ‘net carbon production per head of population’ – excluding farming – how would we stack up on a global (or even commonwealth) basis?

    Re

    changes in feed composition, gut bacteria and genetics all offer some hope for some years down the track.

    Are you suggesting we allow genetic engineering to be part of the country’s fight against carbon emissions? Isn’t this against GP policy?

    Re:

    Emissions will be much lower per hectare if the stocking rate is lower

    Clear as day, but won’t this reduce production, and thereby cause a further deepening of our Balance of Trade deficit, leading to a further lowering of our standard of living than we are already facing?

    Re

    Clearly there are things farmers could do to protect the climate, but at present they will not reduce their carbon obligations

    This is the most clear and definitive statement of the problem with the Kyoto agreement I have seen to date. Kyoto is not about protecting the climate, it is about creating a trading system that SOMEONE will benefit from. The NZX are desperate to operate such a trading system in New ZEaland, not because it will be good for the country but because it will be profitable for them to clip the ticket of every trade done on their exchange.

    Please don’t misunderstand my position here. I own a large Forrest that qualifies for credits. I don’t just own the trees, I also own the land (about 200 Hectares) and plan to leave it to my grandchildren in a retirement trust that they will only benefit from if they replant it as trees. However, the lack of consistency on how Gaia is treated and thought of, even by bodies like the Green Party here in New ZEaland, bothers me as I can’t find the underlying premise that brings it all together into a sensible whole.

    Humankind is a recent anomaly in the life of Gaia, and there are plenty of indications that such parasite as we are have been ‘dealt with’ before – perhaps because they too could not establish a true symbiotic relationship with the planet. Leadership in thinking of symbioticism has to come from people with knowledge and who care, but it also has to be internally consistent. That is what I am looking to the Green Party for, and what I don’t feel is currently forthcoming.

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  11. As usual BP, you abdicate personal responsibility and claim that you don’t matter. No one is suggesting that we pay more than our share.

    Because you’ve yet to demonstrate cause and effect of personal actions.
    All I see is a stealth tax, which of course, I resist.

    You still don’t answer my challenge: Do you also refuse to pay your taxes because in the bigger picture, they really are insignificant?

    No, I don’t refuse to pay taxes for fear they’ll put me in jail.

    Are you really that lazy and irresponsible?

    I’m responsible enough to question people who would take money off me for their pet projects, using deceitful arguments.

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  12. No, I don’t refuse to pay taxes for fear they’ll put me in jail.

    So you’re calling for far stronger ‘policing’ of farmers to pay their emissions dues? Didn’t see you as a Nanny Statist, Blue.

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  13. Strings,
    Under kyoto we would be required to account for the emmisions of the farming sector reguardless of if they are included in the emmisions trading schemme or not. The emmisions trading schemme is a local peice of legislation which sets out the obligations of bodies to accoutn for their emmisions. If farming is not made to pay for its emmisions then the bill is eaither footed by the tax-payer or is off-set by higher prices to other carbon emmiters (which wouldint work under a decent trading system). As such by excluding farming we are saying that half of our emmisions dont need to be accounted for by the producers (massive subsidy) but will be accounted for by us through tax.

    The actual volume is irrelivant comparitive to other countries, or atleast it would be if kyoto was half decent (really it is a terrible product of politics), as NZ would only have to account for as much as it produces but doesint internally offset. The point i think jeanette was trying to make is that in NZ our farming is so large relative to the other sectors that, compared to other countries, we would ahve a far greater problem supporting those emmisions through tax of higher prices for others if farming was left out.

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  14. On another track, one brillent application of genetic engineering would be the creation of a grass which could house bacteria which fixate nitrogen and as such remove the need for nitrogen inhibitors and fertilizers in the first place.

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  15. The problem nitrates are those that erupt from the cow as a stream of urine. No plant could capture those quantities before they soak below the ‘root line’.

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  16. Greenfly,
    Yes, clover does occur to me. But from what ive heard it totally changes the milk quality, in a non-favourable way. Though i heard that from farmers; cant trust them.

    Increase the root line (GE?) and use biochar, the reson biochar is so great is because it absorbs the nitrates which are then relased slowly over time.

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  17. sapient – haiku sensei – hmmmm….
    Increase the root line (organics). Organic management of pasture promotes full and deep rooting, measurably so. Biodynamic agriculture especially so. It’s a simple solution that requires no risky genetic manipulation.
    Biochar! Now you’re talkin’. I’m doing this on my land (pics on flickr if you are interested). There is however a massive over supply of nitrogen across dairy country and capturing it in biochar (is charcoal out of fashion suddenly?) will lead to complications. perhaps if farmers were willing to restrict their urea applications we might have a partial solution (so to speak).
    Why your insistance on GE? I can see NO need for it at all, outside of the medical research lab. I work with plants and have never heard them clamour for it :-)

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  18. Ahhh – yes: Genetic Engineering – the healer of all ills, the prophet of profit, the progenitor of a bio-diversity industry to feed the starving, allow the paralysed to walk, bring peace to mankind, and save the planet.

    So, after 20 years and countless billions of dollars what do we have that’s made it to market: seeds that self terminate and glow in the dark goldfish.

    Let the Angels rejoice!

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  19. Have keen readers seen Nandor Tanczos’ very good article on marae gardens in the latest Organic NZ magazine? He’s doing great work, that rope-head.

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  20. 2:52 pm Greenfly
    2:52 pm BLiP

    Curious convergence. Must have been a blip in the time/space continueum.

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  21. organic farming exempt – dairy expansion and agri buisness taxed at the corporate level?

    tax monsanto and syngenta instead of kiwi farmers? jk

    like many interested in climate justice i am interested in emissions reductions and results and therefore sceptical of carbon trading markets (pollution markets) and think maybe a carbon tax is better.

    interesting that australia delayed their ETS till 2011, the year solid energy wants to strip mine the sub alpine wetlands of the waimangaroa valley. Nats have no set date for an ETS, and want to copy australia and have a joint carbon trading market and for NZ to subsidise the Australian Coal Industry thru carbon trading.

    How can NZ farming improve, provide for families and provide affordible and clean food? How can NZ reduce its emissions in a just way?

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  22. 1. We need to be instep with other countries, if they’re not including agriculture, nor should we.
    2. If there’s no way to measure the effectiveness of systems that farmers put in place to reduce emissions, how can it be claimed that any given farmer is producing emissions at the average level? On this basis if the purpose of a tax is to change behaviour, rather than just to collect revenue, this tax is certain to be a failure.

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  23. If New Zealand agricultural production declines due to being taxed, assuming total global livestock remains constant, ie. other countries increase their production to meet the shortfall, and if, as is claimed, other countries have higher emissions/unit of production, imposing this tax in NZ will increase total global emissions.
    So, as is common with a tax, the outcome will be the opposite of that intended.

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  24. Can someone provide evidence supporting the claim that organic farming does more to increase soil carbon storage than farming using artificial fertilisers? My understanding is that throughout NZ the top soil depth has steadily increased with the use of artificial fertilisers, the only exception being on peat soils where the lifting of soil PH through the use of lime has caused considerable release of CO2, and the use of lime is a encouraged in organic farming.

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  25. Andrew said: If New Zealand agricultural production declines due to being taxed

    Looking at it another way…
    If New Zealand agricultural production changed due to being taxed…
    I’d see that as a very good thing!

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  26. Good writing JF, if only there were other greenies in the Green Party.
    Stings I like your questions too.
    I’m a 4th generation farmer and a forester (both on and off the farm).
    I’ve asked this before but has anyone actually worked out the best guess carbon balance of a whole pastoral farm system? Just isolating cow burps is not even close to factoring in all the variables of the whole farm.
    Ditto for forestry. This research needs to be done urgently. Maybe Gaia isn’t as angry at us as is suggested, I suspect the overall emissions are considerably lower than initially suggested.
    Armed with more holistic data, farmers could plant the appropriate % of the farm in trees and have a certified carbon neutral farm. Meat, wool, milk etc could then be accredited a ‘CarbonMark’ and command a premium price on world markets.
    Even more a winner if, on hill country, the erodible land is planted and on Diary flats, the riparian.
    Nutrient budgeting, charcoal etc are huge areas where we can do much better, again more mainstream research/information would benefit. Most farmers do what they do because that’s all they know.
    My feelings are that a carbon tax is preferable to an ETS but it should be offset by a reduction in income tax. But how much carbon, that’s the big question.

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  27. So you read my comment at 3:31 but missed the one at 3:25?

    “On this basis if the purpose of a tax is to change behaviour, rather than just to collect revenue, this tax is certain to be a failure.”

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  28. Andrew – can you provide evidence that throughout NZ the top soil depth has steadily increased with the use of artificial fertilisers ?
    I believe that you are entirely wrong.
    btw – the intense liming applications that I see here in my rural area are all onto conventional farms. The ‘considerable release of CO2′ that you cite results largely from the tillage practices involving exposing soil to the sun and air and the resulting oxidising of carbon in the soil to carbon dioxide etc.. Ask yourself where you see that being practiced.
    Not a farm advisor, are you :-)

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  29. Taxing can change behaviour of course, but my prefered option would be ‘the inspirational leadership’ model. Sadly, we have the opposite at the moment, when it comes to these issues.

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  30. “I believe that you are entirely wrong.”

    No greenfly, top soil depth have increased steadily on pastural farms using artificial fertilisers.

    Liming is used in both systems, few pastural farmers use tillage to any great extent, arible farmers do, so presumably you believe a move from pastural farming to arable farming will increase CO2 emissions. :-)

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  31. Andrew – top soil depth have increased steadily on pastural farms using artificial fertilisers
    So you claim, again, but haven’t provided any supporting evidence (of the sort you requested re. organic agriculture at first)
    Arable farming, of the conventional sort, has a great deal to answer for also. I’d not excuse them for a moment. However, as I’m sure you are aware, there are superior methods of soil management being practiced even here in New Zealand. Those are the ones I want to see in common use. We’ll not even venture into the harm caused through herbicide and pesticide (a painful topic for me) use by generations of arable farmers in NZ.

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  32. tax shifting is what the canadian green party is into – shifting tax off food and other things and onto pollution. so they see a good thing in taxing coal emissions, waste from factories and so on, and rewarding sustainability and good practice,

    potentially that would look like changes in GST, shifting tax off organic and sustainabke farming and taxing coal power stations and so on.

    interesting the NZ Steel and Comalco (rio tinto) took the same position as the federated farmers (representing Fonterra) which is also the same excuse and debate used overseas: (who pays for pollution – big polluters or the taxpayer..? NZ ETS and the Greenhouse Policy Coalition, NZ steel etc wants it to be you and other taxpayers)

    Australian Coal Association claims the Govt. will cripple industry

    1 May 2009
    Print this article Comments Share this article

    THE AUSTRALIAN Coal Association executive director Ralph Hillman claims that the Australian Government will cripple the coal industry by excluding coal mining from the Energy-Intensive Trade-Exposed class.

    Hillman has told the Senate inquiry that the closure of coal mines in Australia will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    The executive director claims that the decision will simply result in coal production being shifted to competitive countries and the emissions being produced there. He says that there will be no change in global emissions, only a loss of investment in the country’s mining sector and Australian jobs.

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  33. Smells like you’ve been trawling through the Kiwiblog trash again, BluePeter!

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  34. Oh well greenfly at least BluePeter is allowed over at kiwiblog. Haha loser.

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  35. I’ve got a question about Jeanette’s references to Kyoto in future terms — ie “go in to bat at Kyoto”. Is this in reference to negotiating our financial obligation under the Kyoto Protocol, or is she referring to COP15? Calling the next COP “Copenhagen” makes more sense surely, unless it was a slip of the fingers out of habit of course. It did cross my mind that a section of this could have been copy-pasted from a similar document from way back in 1999 — how depressing if the argument has not moved on in all that time.

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  36. KiwiBlog – indeed.

    But it is a good point, no? Thatcher shut down the coal industry in the UK.

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  37. I miss you greenfly like a gaping hole in the head!

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  38. Thatcher shut down the coal industry in the UK.. because she held strong environmental concerns over it’s use? Well, she’s risen in my estimation. Correct me if I’m wrong, BluePeter. btw and excuse me for asking, but what nom de plume do you write under over at Kiwiblog, Blue? I’d find it impossible to believe that you don’t have your say there as well and I’m reminded that you used to post under two names here, IceBaby!

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  39. some greens (eco socialists) dont like her because she attacked mining communities, unions and coal miners.
    she wasnt a climate skeptic so they may have agreed with her on climate issues but not approach. hence some greens with a social concern want a just transition away from polluting industries and into a low carbon economy, Thatcher was pro nuclear and traditionally greens are anti nuclear.

    Not sure about Bluegreens. Notice Nick Smith said Arnold Schwarzenegger was an inspiration of his and never talks about Thatcher. Also noticed that they had a link up (video link) with Zac Goldsmith of the Ecologist magazine at their conference one year. Arnold talks about social justice (and is married to a Kennedy) and Zac is known for progressive and environmental views. Sometimes the ideological divides seem to suggest that certain issues are less complex then they appear.

    Thatcher was a little like helen clark mixed with robert muldoon I think. Tho worse than both. She did not make a long term energy plan for the UK, or have an amazing conservation, transport, climate or environment vision.

    She was the iron lady tho (Thatcher), so maybe that says enough.

    I presume Jeanette is focused on where to go next, and upcomming policy and direction.

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  40. >>because she held strong environmental concerns over it’s use

    No, but that’s missing the point. Either the outcome was good or bad for the environment. It was good. Therefore, Thatchers legacy was, in part, good for the environment.

    >>but what nom de plume do you write under over at Kiwiblog

    If I said “Karl Rove”, would that be amusing? :)

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  41. D4J – that gaping hole, Dad, it’s your mouth! To hear that you miss it makes me wonder at the state of your shirt at dinner time. Just joshin’. You know I have a soft spot for your sort.
    [DPF - 10000 Demerits and a Life Time Ban] :-)

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  42. One of the unspoken assumptions in this discussion (or the one not involving BP), is that the mix of farming systems will remain the same over time – ie that dairying will continue to grow, or at least won’t contract. But with carbon pricing individual farmers may decide to shift other, less carbon-intensive crops and land uses, some of which might even make more money than milking cows. Farmers are smart people. One reason why I think they’re right in wanting the point of obligation at farm level is precisely because this allows individual farmers to make decisions about what’s best on their bit of land. They should be helped in that by (and yes, I know it’s a hobbyhorse of mine) topoclimate mapping, which is a way of looking at soil/mesoclimate/crop relationships (at the paddock level, or near to) and optimising land use. And lets not forget that climate change itself may favour land use changes which may not in themselves be less productive or economic.

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  43. Blue – give it up (the truth that is :-) Who do you play at being when your away from our gentle shores? I was three pests; greenfly, gladstone and village idiot. Too much energy.

    Either the outcome was good or bad for the environment.
    That’s a bit simplistic Blue! The means are important as is the end. If you don’t agree, you’d support the notion that a ‘foot and mouth’ outbreak would be good for our New Zealand environment? Hmm?

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  44. Bucolic Old Sir Henry mentions topoclimate mapping… are you from Southland? Our topoclimate maps are excellent tools and superbly done. I refer to mine a lot and am lucky to have bought land right in the middle of the warmest, most fertile part of the region. Plus, we use them for our ‘fruit tree restoration’ project (along with a GPS) and the open pollinator seed saving network as well.

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  45. d4j said: Oh well greenfly at least BluePeter is allowed over at kiwiblog. Haha loser.

    d4j, greenfly is on his first (one week) suspensions from Kiwiblog, and I think that is a bit unfair, because it was for taking the piss out of Farrar.

    You, d4j, have had 4 suspensions there (totalling 3 months and 3 weeks) and you are only 10 Kiwiblog demerit points away from your next one. And they have been for abusive posts.

    So I wouldn’t gloat if I were you. Seems we’re much more tolerant here than on Kiwiblog though, but it may not last for you.

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  46. hmmmm.. it’s very nice of you to look on the bright side on my behalf, toad, but the reality is.. I’m history over there. Following a wee stoush with Mr Farrar over his hypocritical demeriting of comments I made re Paula Bennett, and my lampooning of his [DPF 20 merits] style (I thought it was pretty funny – Farrar’s minions went a bit balistic – as did Farrar!)
    The up-shot is.. a permanent ban! I’m thinking of printing a t-shirt. :-)

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  47. Greenfly,
    Just checked, seems clover can actually be a better feed for milk production :P . With that taken into consideration a mixed planting of clover and grass could perform just as well as a GE alternative and if roots can really be encouraged to grow deeper through organic methods then that could also be part of the solution without a need for GE.
    The main benefits of terra nigera come from the porus structure of the charcoal, a structure that is best with certain ways of creating that charcoal, so biochar captures within its title such methods :P , atleast it does to me.
    Dunno, why the GE, im on a GE slip today it seems, keep wishing we had trees that grew into houses and wells.

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  48. sapient – yes indeed – simple is best. Terra preta soils are very interesting. My understanding is that the charcoal serves as ‘reefs’ for soil micro-organisms to harbour/multiply in. They can serve that purpose ad infinitum and therin lies their value. Very different from soluble urea, for example. Quick fixes don’t do the biz for me.

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  49. Toad at least I am not permanently banned from kiwiblog unlike the slimy greenfly. Have all you greens got split personality disorders. You are a nasty old fool toady!

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  50. A “permanent ban” would only affect the unimaginative…

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  51. greenfly, haven’t found much with a quick goggle about topsoil build up through pastural farming with artificial fertilisers, I can offer my experience and observations as a farmer:
    On the home farm topsoil has increased in depth from about 3″ to over 5″ over the last 30 years.
    It used to be impossible to pug pasture in our district, now it’s something hard to avoid without standing off.
    Topsoil on farms that have been under intensive dairying and high fertiliser application rates are thicker than on similar neighbouring farms that remained in drystock farming with lower fertiliser application rates.
    Farms that were converted from forest to dairying 10 years ago started off with lower production levels and almost no topsoil are now doing better production and have thicker topsoil.

    How’s your hunt going for evidence supporting your contrary view?

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  52. Greenfly: No, not from Southland, but did follow the Southland project with interest. I’ve tried to get some interest going in North Canterbury with only limited success, but I’ve not given up. I see a national topoclimate exercise as a key part of adaptive response to inevitable climate change.

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  53. daddy; how are you gonna get rid of all that Anger? Gestalt works quick – take jh withya and we’ll hear from you when there isn’t that big angry bear inside. Me – I’m gonna pray for your kids….

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  54. Haha, anger , what anger Mark, because you sound very much like the twisted Sue Bradford and please leave my kids alone you creep!

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  55. # BluePeter Says:
    May 6th, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    > Wonder what Greenies think of Maggie Thatcher?

    Historians may conclude that the most important thing Margaret Thatcher did was to be the first world leader to take climate change seriously, and push for the establishment of the IPCC. From that point of view, you would have to say she was good.

    However, she also did dodgy things like providing government support for arms exports, while expecting other manufacturing to survive without such support (which, in many cases, it didn’t), discouraging the use of public transport, supporting murderous dictators like Augusto Pinochet etc.

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  56. Jeanette chose to leave the room when the skeptical people made their presentations. “hear no evil …” I suppose.
    Anyhow, my submission to the ETS select committee was that our own science funding has focused on the wrong areas.
    We have set out to be leaders of the followers rather than leaders in the areas in which we already excel, and where we are currently desperately short of knowledge – namely the biological exchanges in our agricultural sector.
    We have focused on gases emitted into the atmosphere by belching ruminants because the IPCC is essentially a group of atmospheric scientists exploring theories of the effect of changes in atmospheric gases on climate. (this is Freeman Dyson’s argument, not mine, although it is easy to see he has a point).
    Dyson writes: “I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry, and the biology of fields and farms and forests.”

    New Zealand is a land of fields of farms and forests, and our economy depends on them.

    Once again Dyson argues that the planet’s biomass holds the key to carbon sequestration and pleads for more scientific research into its workings.

    He says:

    “We do not know whether intelligent land management could increase the growth of the topsoil reservoir by four billion tons of carbon per year, the amount needed to stop the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. All we can say for sure is that this is a theoretical possibility and ought to be seriously explored.”

    If our governments, of any hue, want to make a useful contribution to ‘climate science’, while serving our economic and social interests rather than destroying them, Freeman Dyson has shown the way – and he has been showing us the way for about 15 years. Shouldn’t we start to take some notice?

    Dyson’s approach also has the benefit of being a ‘no-regrets’ policy. Improving and increasing the top-soil on our agricultural lands delivers obvious benefits. If it finally transpires that the whole fear of AGW proves to be yet another false alarm then there will be few if any regrets about the increased depth and quality of topsoil and an improved understanding of how top-soil actually works.

    We would also be able to make further contributions to feeding the world – a problem which will never go away.

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  57. Owen McShane quotes: “Improving and increasing the top-soil on our agricultural lands delivers obvious benefits. If it finally transpires that the whole fear of AGW proves to be yet another false alarm then there will be few if any regrets about the increased depth and quality of topsoil and an improved understanding of how top-soil actually works.
    and I agree whole-heartedly with those sentiments.
    Owen – I hope you are spending time on right-wing blogs also, diseminating the same message.
    I wonder if you believe thaty Jeanette doesn’t feel the same way about this aspect?

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  58. I am spreading this argument (as is Freeman Dyson) as best I can and do not discriminate in my choice of audience.

    That is why I was sorry to see Jeannette leave the room before I gave my submission. I thought she would be a supporter.

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  59. Freeman Dyson’s Question about sequestering carbon into farm and forest soil was answered a long time ago. Even New Zealand’s tiny (% of global) land could easily sequester a quarter of a billion tons annually with the right techniques. A sixteenth of Freeman Dyson’s estimate of that required globally for the arithmetically challenged.
    Jeanette knew that this was possible back in 1998 when the NZ Greens were deciding on their Kyoto stance. She wanted soil carbon left out of the equation because it made it possible to address atmospheric carbon without reducing consumption.
    Carbon dioxide/global warming has always been seen by the NZ greens primarily as a stick to beat the consumer society with. A worthy enough goal but it has resulted in some policies of mind boggling stupidity.
    And that brings me to an animal tax.
    Nobody is bothering to measure methane in the atmosphere in NZ at the moment so there is no ground based data on methane concentration, movements, production or destruction.
    Without this what is the point of trying to decide policies?
    Leave Methane out of the whole thing until there is some idea of what is going on.
    Methane is a very short lived atmospheric gas. The dynamics seem to be that large changes in production only have a small effect on concentration anyway.
    ‘Methane is for this week, CO2 is forever.’

    The Green should think of one thing before supporting a random animal tax.
    Any reduction in profitability makes farming less environmentally concerned. The only way to counter this is to financially reward better practices.
    Allowing landowners to opt to count soil carbon (from a 1990 base) would be a good start.

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  60. I think that the claim that ‘there is nothing farmers can do’ about emissions is wrong. Farmers can convert their cattle / sheep / pig farms to grow grains, maize, or legumes (beans etc…). Properly balanced diets of such crops will give people enough nutrients to survive on much less meat (not to mention that the health benefits of reducing saturated fats and cholesterol), but using much less land, and with less pollution / GHG emissions.

    This will increase the price of meat (until an equilibrium is reached when the price is just high enough for some farmers to want to produce meat despite the costs of their emissions), and due to increased crop farming, decrease the cost of healthy vegetarian alternatives. The demand for meat will fall, and the demand for the vegetarian alternatives will rise. The total cost of preparing a healthy meal should stay the same (overall it is merely a land use change).

    The right wing trolls here will most likely attack this post as advocating ‘nanny state’, but it isn’t. If agriculture doesn’t pay for its emissions, then we all pay the costs of global warming, but only the meat industry benefits. So it is entirely fair to ask those who want to eat meat (and those on the chain to producing it) to pay society back for the damage they are doing. The public still get to decide how often they eat meat, but the true cost of doing so is reflected in the price. If they decide the true cost is too high to have meat as often as they would (under the artificially low price at the present because society bears part of the cost), they have other genuine alternatives.

    n.b. Just to provide some context: I do eat meat but I cut back the amount in the interests of the environment.

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  61. Bucolic Old Sir Henry
    I see a national topoclimate exercise as a key part of adaptive response to inevitable climate change.

    Better get busy then BOSH, there’s no time to waste! Bob Crowder once talked about a ‘hedgerow’ network across the Canterbury Plains and the benefits that would bring to the region. So far, there’s nothing to be seen. It’s action time! If there’s one thing this ‘slash and burn’ National Government does seem to be achieving, it’s to energise and provoke into action the grassroot activists (and I mean that in the most positive way).

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  62. A1kmm,
    There is a world demand for meat and we provide a small part of that demand more efficiently than anyone else.
    So if we move to grains and corn (which are energy intensive in their own right) other less efficient meat producers fill the gap.
    Where is the global gain?

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  63. Owen – there is a world demand for pornography – should we provide for that?
    Grains (of which corn is surely one ) can be grown without the energy input you cite. Think ‘organic/biodynamic’.
    Other meat producers? You can’t let that argument influence your actions – ‘but someone else will do it, if we don’t…
    is the standard foil used when someone doesn’t want to change their behaviour. Weak.

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  64. >>there is a world demand for pornography – should we provide for that?

    Hell yes :)

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  65. Dunno BP, not the greenies prehaps; no potential there.
    Not much potential in NZ at all really, atleast not born here. Afew of the canadian imports arnt too bad though.

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  66. Owen goes on to say we provide a small part …
    Was this what resonated with you BluePeter? :-)

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  67. The maple leaf is a leaf of modest dimensions Sapient. The silver fern, on the other hand, is impressively broad and quite large by world standards!

    :-)

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  68. “The current state of the science, as I read it, is that there are no technologies at present to reduce methane emissions”

    Yes there is, stop stuffing ourselves with dead cows and their excreta. That would also clear up the food shortage. We could feed everyone on a plant based diet, but if everyone wants to eat like New Zealanders lots of us will go hungry.

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  69. >>Was this what resonated with you BluePeter?

    I laughed out loud at that. Nice one :)

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  70. Pornography is emissions free.

    Well, in theory, anyway….

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  71. Advocating grain growing to replace pastoral farming in NZ seems bizarre.
    For one thing most of NZ’s agricultural land is not suitable for cropping. With a government with the attention span of a headless chicken forestry is out for this land as well.
    Comparing like to like: Conventional grain cropping is both less ecologically friendly and more fossil fuel intensive than conventional pastoral farming, even dairying.
    The same goes for organic pastoral verses organic grain growing.
    Encouraging organic verses conventional is a whole different argument.

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  72. blue peter and owen Mcshane overlook both impending and future shock potentials in their own cause of advancing growth.. namely that larger people have larger(greater) appetites.. ie much greater capacity to each meat and drink milk products.. growth persé is thus not a credible option. (Else the global population they would aspire to in terms of economic growth or industrial wealth) is likely not credible.. in global terms.

    Such lack of oversight will shortly be felt in forces opposed to the established market in meat.. and perhaps also milk products..

    It would help, I think, to realise what these two essentials to good diet and growth in the western world have realised in western cultured societys. Consider for instance Captain Cook’s bed length in the Melbourne Gardens Museum.. it is little more than 5 feet long. As a note there attests lack of milk, meat and other foods had folks much shorter in the so-called long bones of their anatomy back then..

    To lengthen those bones, as it were, of today’s global populations is to invite a demand on resources which few would sustain..

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  73. Are you suggesting that markets for meat and dairy will diminish?

    To that, I say – nonsense.

    I predict higher prices as demand exceeds supply.

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  74. BluePeter – most of what you say is … nonsense!
    A home vegetable garden, done well, is far, far more productive, foodwise, than a meat farm. Hooves = ruination. Roots = salvation.
    Emerald rightly points out that ‘conventional’ cropping systems are poor examples of what can be achieved through alternative systems. That’s the direction we must (and will, needs be) take. get growing!

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  75. “Hooves = ruination. Roots = salvation.”

    greenfly, meet Malthus. Malthus, meet greenfly.

    We’d have all starved to death decades ago if what you believed had any merit.

    Stop indulging yourself.

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  76. Nonsense (to borrow BP’s phrase) wat! Human beings can thrive on a diet that grows in and on the ground, not the hoof. Imagine (if you will) a system of food growing that explores all of the possibilities that plants offer for human nutrition, without ‘short-cutting’ to meat production and imagine (if you can) the environment we might now be enjoying, had we kept the hooven-ones to their natural eco-systems (clue: our green and pleasant land ain’t one of them).

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  77. We’d have all starved to death decades ago if what you believed had any merit.

    What I believe has merit, and we didn’t starve to death decades ago. What does that tell you about your theory?

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  78. “..Are you suggesting that markets for meat and dairy will diminish?..”

    tho’ we all know tobcco causes cancer.death…people still smoke..

    ..but the already proven (studies at auckland iniversity/funded by..then ‘pulled’ by..fonterra)..

    ..that proved the causal links between our worldbeating rates of death from certain cancers/heart disease..

    ..and our worldbeating rates of dairy consumption..

    when that ‘news’ becomes widespread/global…

    our dairy/meat market will diminish..somewhat..

    (and how are fonterra keeping the lid on that one..?..eh..?

    ..and why are the scientists/researchers keeping so ‘mum’ about their findings..eh..?

    ..would that jeporadise ‘funding’..or what..?

    (now..that’d be a good ‘green’ question for questiontime..?..)

    ‘can the minister confirm or deny that fonterra funded research at auckland university proved the health implications from consuming their product..?

    and is it true this important information has been suppressed by both fonterra..and auckland university..since then..?’

    http://whoar.co.nz/2007/more-questions-than-answers-raised-by-breast-cancer-researchandumdid-these-scientists-know-about-the-longtermgroundbreakingsoon-to-be-published-study-done-at-auckland-universitythat-draws-clear-links/

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  79. >>Hooves = ruination. Roots = salvation

    Green ideology not in the least bit religious….

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  80. tomfarmer,

    Consider for instance Captain Cook’s bed length in the Melbourne Gardens Museum.. it is little more than 5 feet long.

    Having been a recent visitor to the house you mentioned, I must correct you on one assumption.

    Captain Cook never lived in the house. His parents bought it after he became a ship captain. It is in actuial fact his parents house.

    So any bed in the house would almost certainly have never been slept in by Captain Cook.

    Having said that it is a tiny little house and the bed sizes may have had poetic license done to them top enable better visitor movement through the house.

    If you visit Kemp house at Waitangi you will see the same “poetic license” , in regards bed sizes, taken.

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  81. greenfly,

    Yes, we could live on a diet of beetroot. But we don’t want to. We want to live

    We want to eat meat. We want to eat beef. We want to eat lamb. We want to eat seafood.

    We want to live!

    Okay. I personally don’t eat meat because of the animal cruelty thing. But normal people do.

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  82. Hooves = ruination. Roots = salvation
    You assume too much, BluePeter. That’s my religous utterence, not that of the Greens.

    Yes, we could live on a diet of beetroot .. while facetious, wat, I’ll accept that you have accepted that we could live on a diet of plants.
    We want to eat meat. We want to eat beef. We want to eat lamb. We want to eat seafood…. we want to eat WHALES and KAKAPO and KIWI and KERERU as well.
    We want to live , don’t we wat (but sometimes we make ethical choices for the benefit of other species and for the environment. Don’t we.)

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  83. I have no problem, whatsoever, with eating animals.

    Just like you have no problem eating plants.

    We have plenty of land on which to raise animals.

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  84. bluepeter..

    thru the circumstances in my life i know vegans in their sixties/seventies..

    ..who have been vegan for forty years plus..

    ..and compared to their carnivorous age-contemporaries..

    ..they are poster-children for clear-eyed/glowing hair/skin/fit human beings..

    ..cos..y’see..their bodies/minds don’t consist of the dead bodies of other (formerly) loving creatures..

    ..and as they are fit/healthy..they have all the life-benefits that brings..

    ..and on a personal/vanity level..

    ..they also don’t display the physical deterioration present in most of their carnivorous age-contemporaries..

    ..yes blue..being born does lead to death..

    ..it’s the quality of that life that is the ‘rub’..

    ..eh..?

    ..and i know what my eyes/experience are telling/confirming for me..

    ..eh..?

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  85. >>WHALES and KAKAPO and KIWI and KERERU

    The problem is they aren’t farmed.

    No farmed animal has ever become extinct.

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  86. >>they are poster-children for clear-eyed/glowing hair/skin/fit human beings

    I know one who is pale and looks on the verge of death. She’s in her thirties.
    Not a rare example, either…

    http://tinyurl.com/5e9ho7

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  87. greenfly,

    - “we make ethical choices for the benefit of other species and for the environment. ”

    But there is no shortage of cows, sheep or pigs. Yet there is a problem with seafood.

    Why is that?

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  88. BluePeter said:
    No farmed animal has ever become extinct.

    Nor do farmed animals reproduce at a rate as low as one every eight years or so.

    btw – my argument is about hooved animals and centres around the damage they do to the soil.

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  89. wat – the most voracious consumer of fish from the ocean is the ‘umble cow.

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  90. what an absolute pile of alarmist rubbish that link is ..bp..

    ..(this is the only part that makes any sense..)

    “..The Vegan Society, unsurprisingly, claim that the diet is suitable for all stages of life, and have an army of strapping, healthy adults brought up as vegans from birth who are happy to talk to the media.

    They also publish a book with dietary advice on feeding vegan children, written by dietician Sandra Hood..”The Vegan Society, unsurprisingly, claim that the diet is suitable for all stages of life, and have an army of strapping, healthy adults brought up as vegans from birth who are happy to talk to the media. They also publish a book with dietary advice on feeding vegan children, written by dietician Sandra Hood..”

    and maybe you should send your ‘pale/on verge of death’ to this link..?

    http://whoar.co.nz/?s=vegan+recipies

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  91. greenfly, are you not partial to a nice steak, or a delicious roast chicken, or some tender venison that just melts in your mouth.
    (drools Homer Simpson style… arrrgggghhhhh)
    You are missing out buddy :)

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  92. >>what an absolute pile of alarmist rubbish that link is

    Well, this is the home of alarmist rubbish……

    But it outlines the risks, in *some* cases.

    Just as you do with your anti-meat agenda.

    The majority of meat eaters live long and healthy lives.

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  93. >>You are missing out buddy

    And sizzling bacon, with some free-range fresh eggs on thick, buttered toast.

    Mmmmmm……….

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  94. Shunda – are you not partial to a nice apple, or a delicious roast pumpkin, os some tender yams that just melt in your mouth?
    In answer to your question – yes, I am partial. I’d give it all up though, for the sake of the environment. Remember, I’m talking hooves here. I’ve not met a hooved chicken yet (though GE might well be working on one even as we quibble) :-)

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  95. Yes, I likes a good yam.
    How come roast veges always taste better when roasted in the same dish as a chunk of meat?
    I guess some things were just made to go together, clearly meat and veges are eternal partners, a bit like Labour and the Greens ;)

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  96. shunda..you are so liteweight..

    ..it is amazing your words do not float off the screen..

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  97. ..it is amazing your words do not float off the screen..

    If they do Phil, I suggest you adjust your mixture :-)

    Shunda – eternal partners … like Christians and lions?
    How come veges always taste better when roasted in the same dish as flesh? They don’t, it’s just your addiction talking (speaking in tongues).

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  98. I guess blue peter has made himself(herself) a stall here. This would explain how his/her out-of-touchness with modern markets and marketing can have him/her assert “nonsense” to what he/she does not wish to know about.

    One wonders then whether declarations for price increases arising out of “demand for meat and diary” products facilitates his/her Keynesian economics — whose greater money supplies to make such payments possible — fit his vision of things.. today.

    As to the other commenter I was writing of Cook the man and a bed in which that museum lays claim to his having slept therein. Not, and in no way, to be construed as the good captain having lived there. The point of reference, however, illustrative of folks past and their anatomical size/s prior to regular protein foods.

    If out forbears can grow – as we have indeed – then others can and will, too. The problem is so very many others in addition to our own food needs. And in this respect market forces shall follow the laws of physics. To self-limitation. Or death by the billions..

    Not that that in itself will disturb BP. Though certain organic after-effects and consequences are no respecters of personage… anywhere.

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  99. >>this would explain how his/her out-of-touchness with modern markets

    I’m not the one who is out of touch.

    http://www.sow.vu.nl/pdf/Brief%20Feed%20for%20China.pdf
    In the US, meat consumption has increased 100% in the last 50 years. Russia is up 7% since last year, etc etc….

    >>One wonders then whether declarations for price increases arising out of “demand for meat and diary”

    It’s not Keynesian, it’s basic economics. If demand exceeds supply, the price rises.

    >>Not that that in itself will disturb BP

    I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be disturbed by, as your posts don’t make any sense.

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