CFI provides 'exciting' opportunities

CFI provides 'exciting' opportunities


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WHAT are the opportunities' and 'will it be financially worthwhile?' These are the two key questions that farmers, keen to know more about the Federal Government's carbon tax, are asking.

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WHAT are the opportunities' and 'will it be financially worthwhile?'

These are the two key questions that farmers, keen to know more about the Federal Government's carbon tax, are asking.

Ever since it was first mooted, farmers have feared that rising costs for other industries that produce farm inputs will mean their own costs of production will increase.

And while this is still the key concern, recently there has been increased interest in opportunities for agriculture in storing carbon.

Much of this has been driven by money that has started to flow from the Federal Government to local research groups for cutting-edge projects designed to help farmers and land managers lower greenhouse gas emission and potentially access new sources of farm income.

Last month, the government announced $70 million in grants for research and on-farm testing, including many in South Australia (see list left).

The research is being used to inform 'approved methodologies' or what changes in on-farm practices the government will recognise contribute to reducing carbon emissions and will reward with carbon credits.

Approved methodologies currently include capture and combustion of landfill gas, destroying methane from piggery manure, environmental plantings and reducing savanna burning.

But there is a host under consideration, including non-agricultural options, and many are open for public comment. Some include destroying methane from dairies, native forest protection, reforestation and culling camels.

Credits will not be given for projects that are required by law or activities that are common practice and already widely adopted.

Many of the research projects underway in SA will be used by the government to inform which are the best methods to store carbon on-farm.

Rural Solutions' Michael Wurst, Jamestown, said one of the key issues for growers was determining whether on-farm changes they were contemplating were viable.

He said the Carbon Farming Initiative might "tip them over the edge" in that if farmers were to increase production in making a change, and they could store carbon on top of that and be paid for it, then it might make the change a viable option.

"There's no great rush for farmers to be involved," he said. "There are still a lot of unanswered questions about this whole thing. I think it's got some potential and it's reasonably exciting but I'm a bit cautious.

"There are opportunities there I think but they won't make huge amounts of money out of it."

While $23 a tonne was the price put on carbon emissions, farmers were not expected to be paid at that level.

"To store carbon you probably won't get $23/t and many people have done their sums on $23/t and thought 'this is great' but it probably won't end up like that," Mr Wurst said.

While he anticipated it would be two years before there would be any major changes in agriculture, farmers could start planning now and thinking how their management practices could change.

He said good records would be integral to be able to demonstrate a change away from current practices.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Rural Solutions have been working with cattle producers near Oodnadatta on carbon farming opportunities.

The aim is to develop a spreadsheet tool that beef cattle pastoralists can use to assess whether carbon farming has a place in their businesses. It is the first of its type in Australia and results will be used to help landholders understand risks and opportunities.

The tool helps pastoralists tackle questions such as whether it would be profitable to destock land and farm carbon through biosequestration in vegetation. Research has been conducted across several rangelands types and it is anticipated the model could be adapted to suit other industries. Results will be presented to DENR this month.

"The broad questions that all producers would be asking regardless of where they are is that there appears to be an opportunity here for carbon farming so is it actually going to pay as an enterprise in comparison to what I'm currently doing," Rural Solution's Paul Erkelenz said.

Many businesses have adopted a wait-and-see approach until 'teething problems' with the new scheme are sorted.

Trees for Life chief executive Carmel Dundon said the organisation would wait before it determined how it would be involved because of uncertainty over how the tax and its regulation might evolve over the coming year.

The organisation will continue with a carbon planting program it started in 2006 and has put in 620,000 plants over 42 sites, because of members' desire to continue planting, rather than make money from the plantings.

She said in future, they might look at aggregating members' plantings under a single banner to produce carbon credits. But at present, the cost of accreditation to legitimately offer credits rivalled the cost of another plantation.

The story CFI provides 'exciting' opportunities first appeared on Farm Online.

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