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Farmers let rip on flatulence tax

These are taxing times for New Zealand livestock farmers.
These are taxing times for New Zealand livestock farmers.

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(CNN) -- Nobody likes paying extra tax, but New Zealand's farmers think a proposed greenhouse gas levy is really on the nose.

In a bid to meet Kyoto Protocol commitments, the government in Wellington is planning to slug livestock producers with a "flatulence tax."

While New Zealand is not renowned for its heavy industry, it is home to approximately 45 million sheep and 8 million cattle.

Along with commercial goat and deer populations, scientists estimate these animals are responsible for about 90 percent of the nation's methane emissions and more than 40 percent of total greenhouse gases produced.

A New Zealand dairy cow produces about 90 kilograms of methane per year.

It is these emissions which must be reduced if the South Pacific country is to meet its international greenhouse gas obligations.

Under the government's proposals, reported in the New Zealand Herald newspaper Friday, sheep will be levied at NZ9 cents each and cows at up to NZ72c each.

The money raised -- estimated at NZ$8.4 million ($4.9 million) a year -- will be used to fund the Agriculture Emissions Research body.

Farmers are furious that they are bearing a further financial burden for their belching beasts.

"This is a public good rather than an industry good. It should be funded by the government, not farmers," Meat New Zealand chairman Jeff Grant told the Herald.

Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton, however, said agriculture had been exempted from emission charges in the climate change policy, but was expected to meet the costs of research.

Scientists are hoping to find ways of reducing livestock methane emissions by studying the animals' diet and digestion processes.

New Zealand Federated Farmers president Tom Lambie said the levy disadvantaged farmers struggling to compete in the world markets, the Herald reports.

"As far as I'm aware, we're the only country in the world to impose a levy like this," said.

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