WA growers invited to carbon farming forum set to ‘demystify’ the practice

Headshot of Shannon Verhagen
WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan and Weelhamby owner David Martin at the Perenjori property.
Camera IconWA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan and Weelhamby owner David Martin at the Perenjori property. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman/Countryman

Grainbelt growers will hear from fellow farmers embarking on carbon farming projects at an upcoming forum in a bid to demystify the practice and debunk the suggestion farmers need to sacrifice productive land to do it.

The Perth forum is hoped to help farmers “wrap their head around” the complex practice, which the State Government believes could generate millions for farmers in low-rainfall areas across the South West Land Division.

The Stocktake of Carbon Farming forum — hosted by WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan on February 10 — will bring farmers, big business and industry players together to talk about what carbon farming projects are happening, when and how.

It comes as the State Government prepares to open round two of its $15 million Carbon Farming and Land Restoration Program fund, after round one recipients shared in $3.3 million last month.

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The practice — which involves increasing the amount of carbon stored in the soil and vegetation on farms by changing management practices such as reducing grazing pressure and revegetation — generates Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) which can be sold, providing an additional income stream.

It has generated WA pastoralists millions since the practice was given the green light in the State in 2019, with the State Government now setting its sights on the grainbelt, particularly low rainfall zones.

Ms MacTiernan said interest in the practice was gaining momentum, particularly with ACCU prices skyrocketing from about $18 in 2019 to about $50 in recent months.

“The movement in the carbon farming space is beginning to accelerate and it’s quite a complex area and people are trying to wrap their head around it,” she said.

“We’ll be giving an overview of all of the different types and methodologies that are available, giving an idea of what the government is doing — our schemes to encourage it.

“And we’ll be having groups like Woodside and ANZ and others that are very active in this space, showing what they are proposing to do and acreages so there’s a sense of scale.”

Carbon farming projects already underway will be discussed, with David Martin, the farmer behind the biggest project supported by the program yet will be on-hand to talk about the Perenjori project dubbed the “poster-child” for carbon farming in the Wheatbelt.

Mr Martin’s Weelhamby Farm secured $738,600 through a pre-purchase ACCU agreement with the State Government, and will be creating wildlife corridors and undertaking multi-species cropping and rotational grazing.

Ms MacTiernan said the co-benefits of embarking on such projects would also be explained.

“ACCU’s are now selling at $50 or more, so there is an enormous amount of interest,” she said.

“So we’ll be having a few farmers that have done it getting up and talking about their experience, talking about the biodiversity benefits, so people can understand the benefits for things like soil erosion, the potential for microbe climatic changes, the contribution to soil health.”

The forum will focus on the South West Agricultural Land Division, not the pastoral estate.

One of the key points Ms MacTiernan hoped to drive home was that farmers did not need to sacrifice tracts of productive agricultural land to take part.

“There are people out there presenting this as another Sydney blue gum fiasco for farming and it does not need to be that way,” she said.

“One of the things we’re really keen to show is this is not about taking agricultural land out, it’s about augmenting agricultural land.

“I think a lot of people are interested but they need more information so we want to map out a bit of an agenda and provide an overview to really let people wrap their head around this complex issue.

“We really want farmers, we don’t want to be preaching to the converted.”

The forum will run from 9am to 3.15pm on February 10 at Aloft Perth’s Ballroom and Rooftop Terrace.

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