Euro ‘cow tax’ talk is all hot air – says EDA

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Greenhouse gas emissions, Greenhouse gas

Ongoing talks in the US over a potential tax on methane emissions from dairy cows and other livestock farming is unlikely to be rolled-out globally and would not be welcomed within European dairy, according to one industry expert.

Doctor Joop Kleibeuker, secretary general of the European Dairy Association (EDA) claimed that cutting the environmental impacts of processing and supply were a major aim for the industry, with a lot of work was already going on at farm level.

However, speaking to DairyReporter.com, Kleibeuker stressed that some reports suggesting a so-called ‘cow tax’ might by imposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of consultations on regulating greenhouse gas emissions were unlikely.

He also claimed that with European dairy groups looking at the impacts across their supply chain, from packaging and energy use to water pollution, taxing dairy farms would not be welcome by the EDA and its members.

Livestock taxation

Although the EPA said that it was not proposing a duty on livestock emissions as part of the consultation, which ended 28 November, Kleibeuker claimed that similar tax schemes had even been mooted in Europe as a means of encouraging more environmental production.

“’Cow tax’ proposals have been floating around for some time, but there is no expectation they will be passed in the short-term,”​ he said. “That is the feeling in Europe and, as I am aware, the same in many other countries were authorities are looking how they can manage [greenhouse gas emissions].”

The European Commission said that it currently had not set targets regarding carbon emissions from agricultural sources such as livestock farming, with the sector not covered under the bloc’s Emission Trading System (ETS).

A Commission spokesperson conceded that with the EU committed to attempting to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 10 per cent between 2005 and 2020 from non-sector specific sources, agriculture could have to ame concessions.

“[Agriculture] will be called upon to reduce its GHG emissions as part of non-ETS sectors included in the current legislative proposal for sharing efforts within sectors not covered by the scheme,”​ stated the spokesperson. “These are agriculture, transport, energy use in buildings, small industrial installations and waste”.

Farm focus

From the side of the dairy industry, Kleibeuker believes that there is already an increasing focus by manufacturers and farmers to tackle the environmental impacts of supplying milk.

He pointed to the growing availability of tools that can make it easier for farmers to quantify their various eco-impacts as an example of this growing awareness. Despite the shifting focus for the industry, Kleibeuker claims that the environment has long been a priority for the industry in recent years.

“The industry has started years ago on schemes like improving manure management, as we have looked at ways in how we can reduce methane emissions,”​ he said.

Varying cows diets as well as more national initiatives like the Netherlands signing up to a covenant to work towards becoming more of a carbon free dairy industry by 2020 were selected by Kleibeuker as reflecting industry commitments.

He also suggested that comparable schemes were under way in the US and UK markets as well.

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