Carbon price no incentive for farmers

Claire TyrrellCountryman

Farmers are calling for a higher carbon price to justify taking part in the Federal Government’s Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI).

The initiative is a carbon offsets scheme designed to encourage farmers to cut their emissions.

It will offer compensation to growers for sequestering carbon in soil or vegetation.

The Gillard Government recently indicated an initial carbon price of $25 per tonne, but farmers say this needs to be at least $30/t.

Northern Agricultural Catchments Council sustainable farming co-ordinator Sarah Jeffery explained the workings of the CFI at recent carbon farming forums held in Geraldton and Moora.

“People often think about carbon offsets in terms of trees absorbing carbon dioxide as they grow, ” she said.

“In terms of carbon farming, these offsets are about a lot more than just simply growing trees.

“They include reforestation or improving forest management, reducing livestock emissions, manure management, soil carbon and reducing emissions through better use of fertilisers.”

Pindar farmer Mike Kerkmans has become involved in a carbon offsets scheme before legislation being introduced. He said farmers would need a higher carbon price of at least $30/t to justify changing their practices.

“The carbon price has to be higher than $25/t before farmers will consider taking land out of production, ” he said.

“If the price of carbon went up, it would make it more exciting for farmers to change their everyday practices.”

Euan Beaumont, of Australian Carbon Traders, attended the carbon farming workshops this month.

He said carbon offsets were not just about carbon dioxide.

“It’s important to remember we are not trading carbon or CO{-2}, we are trading CO{-2} equivalents, ” he said.

“A CO{-2} equivalent is the standard measure used across the world to compare the emissions from various greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential, ” he said.

CO{-2} equivalents are calculated by multiplying the global warming potential of a gas with the market price of carbon.

Mr Beaumont said farmers who wanted to capitalise on the CFI would need to develop projects that were not part of their normal practice.

“The CFI has an additional clause that says anything that is currently business as usual won’t be considered under the scheme, ” he said.

“Only projects that have been developed as a result of the CFI would qualify for carbon credits.”

Australian Carbon Traders manager Ben Keogh said only trees planted after June 2010 would be eligible for carbon credits under the CFI and these had to stand for 100 years.

“If you are going to plant trees for carbon credits, consider them permanent, ” he said.

Mr Keogh said there was a Risk of Reversal buffer included in the scheme, which would cover farmers in case of a fire.

“Farmers will not be liable for the emissions released due to fire, but credits will not be issued until the forest has regenerated to pre-disturbance levels, ” he said.

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