Labour's plan of paying for its policy ideas by boosting the burden on farmers has been slammed by the editor of a farming newspaper.
After roundly criticising National 2011 Budget, Labour yesterday revealed some of its own financial planning, including bringing agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme in 2012 instead of 2015.
This would offset costs involved with increasing the minimum wage and restoring the R & D tax credit.
Tim Fulton, editor of NZ Farmers' Weekly, says an adjustment in the implementation timing of the ETS is not major, but he does take issue with David Cunliffe's suggestion to TVNZ today that farmers need to contribute more to the economy.
"I'm quite gobsmacked to hear Mr Cunliffe talking about how farming should be paying its way. For goodness sake, if this country didn't have dairy, sheep and beef farming and the like then we could just turn off the lights," Fulton told AMP Business .
Dairy farmers in particular are enjoying a boom in commodity prices and a high forecast payout from Fonterra but also carry high debt levels from leaner years.
Fulton has defended farming's role in the country's economy.
"It really is agriculture carrying us forward and that's not to say we shouldn't pay our way in terms of the ETS but if you want to talk about the workers in this country, I think the real workers and the real high-tech part of the economy is agriculture".
But Cunliffe says farmers shouldn't feel "under attack" from Labour's idea of moving up the timeframe for the ETS and must pay their share .
"The rest of the economy will already be facing higher levels of emission tax than agriculture.
"Agriculture is still getting a sweet deal, even after the change, just not quite as freer ride as it was getting under National. The reason for that is, in tough times, everybody has got to tighten their belt a little bit, not just some people and certainly not just workers at the bottom end of the heap who can afford it the least.
"Those who have the ability to contribute should contribute otherwise we are going to find that the burden falls unfairly," Cunliffe said.
Federated Farmers chairman Don Nicolson described the ETS as a "huge and destructive 'anti-jobs' scheme" during a speech in Australia today.