New Zealand want to tax farmers because their livestock pees and belches

I want to focus on urine in this article 😒! But the news is that Jacinda Ardern has declared that New Zealand is going to be the first country to reduce agricultural emissions because the world is becoming more concerned about how food is produced on farms. We know that livestock contributes to global warming through methane and nitrous oxide through burping, passing wind, peeing and defecating. They are a factory of global warming gases. Humans are too, though usually indirectly.

Sheep in NZ peeing, burping and defecating
Sheep in NZ peeing, burping and defecating. Image: Pinterest.

The idea is that the government puts a levy on farms which makes the production of meat and milk et cetera more expensive for the farmers, but they can recover the cost of the levy by charging more for climate-friendly products. In addition, they money raised can be fed into research of new technology to reduce the contribution that livestock makes to global warming. And the levy would provide a financial incentive for farmers to use technology to reduce these gases from livestock. Diet such as adding fats, may be a way to reduce cow produced methane, for example.

I would have thought, too, that they should be looking at how to better use urine produced by livestock because of two reasons, as I understand it. The first is that if urine is reclaimed rather than simply allowed to wash away into the ground, it can be used as a powerful plant fertiliser. When it is left in the ground and eventually washed into rivers, lakes and the sea it encourages algae to grow out of control with environmental consequences. But if it’s collected and recycled, it can be converted into a fertiliser.

The second reason is that urine is a producer of nitrous oxide which is about 10 times more potent than carbon dioxide (C02). Although carbon dioxide has been responsible for about 10 times as much warming as nitrous oxide, the latter is more potent. Stanford University tells me that one pound of nitrous oxide gas warms the atmosphere some 300 times more than a pound of carbon does over a 100-year period.

Therefore, as I understand it, farmers will need to try and collect urine and recycle it as fertiliser. The same probably goes for dung. That would be a massive challenge and as you would expect, and farmers are very much against the levy proposed by their prime minister.

They said that they would stop farming as the plan would “rip the guts out of small-town New Zealand”. Where you now see sheep farms you would see trees instead. Sheep and beef farmers would turn their farms into forests and make money that way.

New Zealand has 26 million sheep and 10 million cows which far outnumber the human population of about 5 million. Therefore, there are strong arguments to utilise these waste products more efficiently and avoid them damaging the environment.

And that brings me nicely to the wider issue of humans and pets and how it might be possible to utilise their waste products. Humans pee in the toilet normally and they flush it all away, but a lot of water is used to flush away a relatively small amount of urine. This is a waste of water and water it is becoming more precious especially in places like California where there is a drought and Nevada. These are two states where they are struggling to distribute water fairly and preserve water and maximise its use.

And as there are about 90 odd million domestic cats in America and approximately the same number of feral cats, it crosses my mind that they produce a lot of urine! A lot of it is deposited outside and a lot of it is deposited in cat litter. The cat litter substrate is then bagged up and discarded in landfill. Pet dogs and cats together produce per year about five million tons of manure as poop in the US.

The same issues concerning urine producing nitrous oxide are present on a smaller scale with respect to cats and dogs peeing outside and it’s going to be washed into the sea. It the livestock problem on a smaller scale. Outside domestic cats and feral cats might be included in any plan such as proposed by Ardern.

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Post Category: Farming