Federated Farmers President Andrew Hoggard’s sidestep from feds politics to national politics won’t be a surprise as there has been a history of politicians who cut their teeth at the national farming level with at least five names coming up as making a play to become MPs.
It is of some interest that the last three made up of Andrew Hoggard, (standing 2023 A.) Don Nicholson (failed to be elected A. 2011) and Owen Jennings (A. 1996 -2002) have all made ACT their party of choice while prior to ACT’s arrival Rob Storey (N. 1984 -96) and Bert Cooksley (N. 1949-63) were successful in becoming National party MP’s.
As a sector farmers tend to vote for the centre right and have had a long history of being involved in politics, the most infamous as Massey’s ‘Cossacks’ breaking up the waterfront strike of 1913.
Starting in 1899 as the Farmers Union, the organisation was set up with basically the same principles it has today, protecting and advocating for farmers rights (as they see them) and trying to help ensure farmers receive fair reward for their work and investments.
In 1945 the Farmers Union merged with The Sheep Owners Federation and become the Federated Farmers (FF). Although the FF have a policy of being politically neutral their history of the number of Presidents going into centre-right politics certainly reveals where their loyalties largely side.
Having said that, in recent years as an organisation they kept their distance from the Groundswell movement which perhaps has been seen to be a couple of steps further right than the hierarchy at least felt comfortable with.
Hoggard joining ACT should certainly do no harm to ACT’s chances of increasing their share of votes and as such, the National Party, while they may have wished Hoggard went with them will still gain from the move.
It is increasingly looking like it is going to be the minor parties that will determine the outcome of the next election. With ACT’s increasing support their role in a potential National ACT coalition is gaining more importance and no doubt many farmers will be glad to see an increase in those coming from the agricultural sector joining either party.
It remains to be seen of course just how many and who get into parliament and in what role.
This news comes just as Labour's has ructions with Meka Whaitiri's decision to sit as an independent and then stand for Te Pāti Māori. Again, this decision may work in Labours favour bolstering some of their minority support.
The way the different parties are coalescing is certainly putting a greater philosophical divide between what is often quite a blurred line between centre left and right. While the two major parties may look somewhat similar their likely coalition partners are certainly pulling them away in different directions.
A recent release of a literature review by Beef and Lamb NZ regarding International Emissions Trading Schemes and the Use of Forestry Offsets may cover at least some of the reasons some farmers and others are frustrated with the present governments attitude to farming and forestry. The review has found New Zealand’s policy of allowing fossil fuel emitters to offset all their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by planting trees is at odds with the rest of the world, and it’s having a damaging impact on the agricultural sector and rural communities. The key findings of the review are:
• New Zealand’s emissions trading schemes (ETS) settings are unconventional when compared internationally.
• The NZ ETS is the only scheme internationally that includes the entire forestry sector, with all other ETS systems globally only including forestry offsets on a project by project basis.
• New Zealand is the only country, aside from Kazakhstan, to allow 100% offsetting by forestry within its ETS. Most other countries have recognised this as a risk and have set policies to restrict it.
• About half of ETS systems globally allow some amount of offsetting (either from forestry or carbon capture) but most only allow 10 percent or less of emissions to be offset. Only Japanese schemes allow more than 10% (in addition to New Zealand and Kazakhstan).
• Many of these programs also have additional qualitative requirements and restrictions, with the goal of ensuring that offsets either do not cause harm to other socio economic and environmental outcomes or go further and deliver co-benefits.
• By allowing for 100% offsetting and full participation of forests in the NZ ETS, the carbon market and forestry sectors are intricately linked with one having the ability to vastly impact the other.
• While Kazakhstan theoretically allows 100% offsetting, forestry is not in its ETS and individual companies have to apply to offset on a project basis. Up to date information is scarce and no instances of forestry offsetting happening in practice could be found.
• All other countries with ETS have not relied on forestry offsets to the same extent as New Zealand for a variety of reasons including concerns about how ‘permanent’ the removals are, the detrimental impacts of land use change on local communities, costs of monitoring and implementation, and a strong preference for fossil-fuel based emissions reductions.
• The removal of the price cap on the carbon price in New Zealand in 2019 along with the combination of increasingly high NZU prices and the unique inclusion of the forestry sector in the NZ ETS has resulted in a significant increase in farmland being purchased for the purposes of carbon offsetting.
• Sheep and beef farm purchases have risen from 7,000 ha in 2017 to 52,000 ha in 2021 (for a total of 175,000 ha over the five-year period).
• B+LNZ estimate that this equates to one million less stock units, 1,600 fewer jobs a year, $170m less spent in communities annually and $245m less in export revenue annually.
• Environmental groups, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, and the Climate Change Commission are all calling for limits on forestry as they all agree that too much land conversion is happening, with long term potential implications for New Zealand.
This report’s findings show the treatment of forestry in the NZ ETS is an international outlier, which reinforces and supports the need for urgent change. The review comes out on the eve of the report into forestry policies and slash on the East Coast and will no doubt add more fuel to this debate.