New Zealand announces changes to agricultural emissions scheme to help farmers

Sheep ready to be shorn are pictured on the property of sheep farmer Roger Barton in New Zealand's Wairarapa region, November 14, 2014. REUTERS/Naomi Tajitsu

WELLINGTON, Dec 21 (Reuters) - The New Zealand government said on Wednesday that having listened to concerns raised by farm groups it was making changes to its proposed plans to price agricultural long-lived gases and biogenic methane that mainly comes from cow and sheep burps.

The government said in a statement it had made a number of changes to the original proposal including allowing for farmers to use on-farm forestry to offset their carbon emissions and a commitment to keep emissions pricing as low as possible.

The government in October released a proposed agricultural emissions pricing plan, which when introduced in 2025 will make New Zealand, a large agricultural exporter, the first country to have farmers pay for emissions from livestock. The initial plan was widely criticised by farm groups.

"The most important thing is getting an emission reduction system set up that lasts," said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement after the changes were announced.

"We are working hard alongside the agriculture sector to strike the balance between building good levels of sector buy-in, while also ensuring the system is robust and meets our emissions reductions goals," she said.

The changes were largely welcomed by the sector. A group representing farmer bodies and indigenous interests, He Waka Eke Noa, said in a statement that the government's emissions pricing system was moving in the right direction.

"It shows the Government is listening to sector and Maori views and is taking action to address concerns. This shows the value of working together," said He Waka Eke Noa Independent Chair Sarah Paters.

Final decisions on agricultural emissions pricing will be made early next year with the aim of introducing legislation in parliament by the middle of the year.

Reporting by Lucy Craymer; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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