Carbon education vital for lift in scheme uptake

Carbon education vital for lift in scheme uptake

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Carbon farming is the flavour of the month, given the recent climate discussions worldwide at COP26 Glasgow, but there are growing concerns with farmers unaware of what they are signing up for.

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Carbon farming is the flavour of the month, given the recent climate discussions worldwide at COP26 Glasgow, but there are growing concerns with farmers unaware of what they are signing up for.

Hillsview Props operations manager Michael Shanahan, Freeling, is looking to implement carbon farming on their family farm but feels there is not enough information on what was required.

This inspired him to begin studying the topic.

"One of the major focuses for the federal government is on soil and how they can use the soil to abate carbon to achieve those net zero targets they've outlaid for 2050," he said.

"Carbon credits are not actually a new thing, it has been around for quite awhile but the methodology behind getting carbon credits is constantly evolving and agriculture will continue to be a major focus.

"Basically you get a credit for abating an amount of carbon from your emissions - as a farmer if you can abate one tonne of carbon into your soil, you then can then get a credit for this but there are many rules and regulations."

Mr Shanahan says while there will be cowboys taking advantage of carbon credits, there is room for concern for ordinary farmers wanting to benefit from the clean energy regulator scheme.

"Farmers can see the economic benefit but what they do not realise with carbon farming is it's actually a long-term process," he said.

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"You have to enter a contract when lodging a carbon farming project, most of the contracts involved can last up to 25 years.

"Farmers do not understand if they enter into these contracts whether it be the government or private, they need a huge due diligence so they don't disrupt the carbon they have stored."

Mr Shanahan says carbon farming is not going to produce results in a year's time.

"It takes time and a change of management in what they are doing in day to day operations, which a lot of farmers would have to really consider and address with their bottom line," he said.

"I think large scale operators will get the benefits because they have the scale and means to make change on their farms, however when you are looking at family farms - that account for most of the industry - it's not easy to disrupt and change processes existing from day dot."

Mr Shanahan said the main concern with contracts is the longevity of the carbon abatement project.

"You will lose credits and be held liable for things if you do not meet contract requirements," he said.

"It can be detrimental to the whole entire project if you're not in control and aware of what you are doing on your property.

"It's not as simple as saying, I am going to be a carbon farmer tomorrow, it's a really well thought out strategy that you need to implement."

Mr Shanahan says it is about changed management and future proofing farms for a change in industry, which farmers are thrown daily.

"There are new opportunities and new threats to our industry everyday," he said.

"This is an opportunity but I think people need to walk with caution and not get excited by the amount of money just yet."

SHANAHAN BRIDGES GAP ON FAMILY FARM

AGRICULTURAL Bureau Sustainable Agriculture scholarship finalist Michael Shanahan plans to bridge the knowledge gap between everyday farmers and the carbon farming scheme.

"The cost to implement carbon projects can be varied and are often detrimental to the overall value of the scheme," he said.

"There are a myriad of legal ramifications attached to carbon contracts ensuring you maintain due diligence throughout the lifespan of a project."

Mr Shanahan said he would like to provide transparency and better advocacy for family farms to be involved in the soil boom, as "taking a punt" really doesn't cut it when engaging in a carbon project for an extensive period of time.

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"Adapting the way you have done things for many years is not always appealing to everyone so trust in change and education will be key with proper planning," he said.

"It is my hope that everyday farming families like mine can lead the carbon farming conversation in Australia so producers can do what we do best.

"At the end of the day we just really need people from both sides of the industry to be more involved."

Mr Shanahan said the biggest thing is to have someone on the ground that understands the legal ramifications of carbon abatement.

"There are a lot of businesses out there but I want to start a consultancy for farmers by farmers," he said.

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