Taxing farts, or burps.

Conversations | 24th June 2024 | By Chris Lawlor

Independent Contributor

Feedback from previous articles was I offended some entitled millennials and Gen Z nerds, so to balance I will focus on boomers this week. Governments around the developed world are attempting various forms of taxing their farmers for the methane their ruminant animals are emitting.

With regard to Australia and NZ, Australia is likely to introduce the need for carbon reporting from farmers, (AgWatchers Carbon counting), in effect knowing how much carbon you are emitting and sequestering on farm. NZ’s new government recently saw the light and postponed any taxation until 2030.

Just like when a boomer fart’s under the covers and sneakily checks its potency after yesterday’s beers, curry or waldorf salad (boomers should be renamed bombers, just spent a week in a car around Tasmania with Dad & Bruce), the ruminants in the paddock have no such qualms about letting rip in a…..’safer’ environment. However, they still have 4 stomachs as they did thousands of years ago. This is so that they can digest grass, or in particular, the cellulose in grass, and convert as efficiently as their diet allows into quality meat or milk for their superior mammal cousins to survive on (us).

In our wisdom the more superior or smarterer humans have devised varying calculations to measure both the quantity and potency of this, and standardised it. Now a cow eating grain or protein fit for human consumption is considered a similar villain to those eating grass growing in the fields. And whilst forgetting this is a natural part of the food cycle, they also forget that NZ or Tasmanian grass fed cows are circa 40% more efficient from a carbon footprint perspective than all the cows in barns across Europe, America and some of mainland Australia.

The high-level numbers may be of some interest. On our 700-cow farm at the bottom of NZ our recently criminalised cows are assessed to emit 4t of carbon per year. Over the last 10 years I have planted 40ha of rough gullies and marginal areas in pine trees for which I receive circa 20t/ha year for carbon sequestered. So, 2,800t of carbon emitted versus 800t sequestered leaves a deficit of 2,000t at today’s price of $55/t. Now the method used to calculate the cows 4t of emission per year is actually about 30 years old, new science actually proves enteric methane (from ruminants) is only 25% of this, so at this level with my trees I may be neutralish……I could go into the science but it really is a cure for insomnia…..this link gives a reasonably simple explanation.

Some fun facts comparing polluterers…..I sometimes wonder if politicians realise that the atmosphere has no borders….

  • Coal combustion produced 15 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) worldwide in 2022.
  • Twenty-four coal power stations are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia, pumping out 170 million tonnes of CO2 every year. From 120 million tonnes of coal. In 2022 68% of our electricity came from coal, oil and gas.
  • Australia exported an estimated 335 million tonnes of coal in 2022, using the same maths this would generate over 430 million tonnes of CO2.
  • Arguably this means we are linked to 500 million tonnes of CO2 generation from coal.
  • 1.4 million Australian dairy cows at 4 tonnes of CO2/cow equals 5.6 million tonnes of CO2….. to make 8 billion litres of milk and 50 million kg of Beef.

It’s important to realise Carbon isn’t bad, CO2 is currently at 400ppm (parts per million) in the atmosphere, market gardeners actually pump CO2 into glass houses because plant growth is maximised at 1000ppm.

I took this photo last July outside a Kibbutz dairy in Israel, this is Colin in his soon to be well used Bomb shelter while other family members attempted to ‘neutralise’ Hamas (don’t our problems start to seem insignificant?).

Israel farmers with their arid climate are some of the most efficient users of water and fertiliser in the world, recycling both efficiently. When asked his opinion on a fart or methane tax for farmers he said……”You’re joking?!”. He seriously didn’t believe me and quite rightly pointed out how completely insignificant enteric methane is in a world using 7 billion tonnes of coal and 4 billion tonnes of crude oil annually…..and it’s recycled by plants anyway!

Logic isn’t as common in parliament as ‘bending over’ to get votes, so we may get stuck with some form of offsetting mechanism in yet another wave of government driven compliance, but don’t panic, with planting a few more trees and ‘talking’ soil carbon I suggest the effects will be minimal, if any, or passed onto our city cousins already enduring a ‘cost of living’ crisis.

I’ve offered Colin the services of Dad and Bruce to fumigate Hamas out of their tunnels…..another bad joke… is taxing farmers for insignificant enteric methane!


  • GHG Emissions
  • Environment
  • Carbon
  • Methane