Farmers get clear steer on carbon and climate change

Farmers wanting to reduce emissions will soon be guided by a national statement on agriculture and climate change.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said the statement would be an Australian first.

“This national statement will present a broad and unified vision for the agriculture sector and will demonstrate that all levels of government are committed to supporting the sector to sustainably manage the impacts of climate change,” he said on Wednesday.

The minister acknowledged Australian farmers needed help in transitioning to low-emissions production.

“There is an urgent need to support Australian agriculture to become even more sustainable,” he said.

Farmers for Climate Action surveyed 600 people for a report about global warming, the climate market and drought.

One in 10 farmers said they were active in the carbon market, while 38 per cent said they didn’t know how to get involved. In response to a separate question, 70 per cent admitted they didn’t understand the carbon market.

“We need to have a language that farmers can understand that tells them exactly how they can reduce their emissions,” the group’s Charlie Prell said.

“Acting on climate change provides huge opportunities for agriculture to diversify income streams and to continue to innovate and delaying action is a significant risk.”

The group’s report called for more education and recommended a network of dedicated officers be set up to run demonstrations, field days and farm visits.

It also encouraged support for farmers to invest in emissions-reduction technologies, alongside initiatives like instant tax asset write-offs for renewable energy and on-farm storage.

Victorian cattle producer Olivia Lawson was one of the 600 farmers interviewed.

While Ms Lawson has done a large amount of research around carbon farming, she was not surprised that many had been left confused.

“There is a lot to understand,” she said.

“There are a lot of risks and benefits to consider, it’s certainly not straightforward.”

For the past two decades the bull breeder has been farming with biologically, eliminating synthetic fertilisers and chemicals, with the focus on improving ground cover and soil health.

“As 100 per cent cattle business, we know we have a methane problem,” she said.

“Our ultimate aim is really to leave our land in better condition than when we found it.”

Despite being a supporter of the carbon market the Victorian producer hasn’t sought to trade carbon credits because of the cost and “unknowns”.

“It’s not something we have delved into yet … I don’t know whether there’s going to be much upside for us in terms of gains,” she told AAP.

And she wants more streamlined independent information available to farmers.

“There hasn’t been any direct line of communication where we can go to access transparent information about what it all means,” Ms Lawson said.

“Farmers need to be rewarded more for the ecosystem services that they provide in society,” she said.

The report also found a lack of understanding among farmers around the federal government’s $5 billion future drought fund.

Some 90 per cent of respondents hadn’t accessed the fund.


Liv Casben
(Australian Associated Press)


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