Wednesday, 15 September 2021. Australian farming families can diversify their incomes, increase productivity and profit from strong climate policy, a new report from economic consultants Ernst & Young has confirmed.
The report, commissioned by Farmers for Climate Action, which has one of the highest memberships among farm bodies in Australia with more than 6,000 farmer supporters, lays out the opportunities good climate policy creates for farming families.
The economic consultants modelled an easily achievable pathway to zero emissions without shrinking Australian agriculture nor the cattle or sheep herd, and this landed on the year 2040.
Farming families do not want to miss the opportunities good climate policy presents for them.
The report lays out many opportunities for Australian farming families to increase productivity whilst also making deep emissions cuts this decade.
It outlines the benefits of good climate policy for farming families including income diversification, productivity benefits, foreign market access and long term resilience. It includes several methods of reducing net emissions, including improved pasture management, selective breeding, feed supplements which reduce methane output in stock and of course, carbon and biodiversity crops as climate action nudges other industries to purchase carbon credits.
Much of what needs to be happening – planting trees and ground cover on non-productive land and within productive systems, adopting best-practice grazing management – is already underway. We just need to scale it up.
The research and development we need? It’s coming, it just needs more investment. All of these things will contribute to more profitable and resilient farming systems.
Farmers will likely plant their carbon and biodiversity crops on unproductive sections of their farms, leaving the more productive and often flatter sections of farms for the more lucrative crops. Growing carbon and biodiversity crops is entirely voluntary and participating farmers select themselves, so decisions made by individual farmers will dictate which areas of Australia those carbon and biodiversity crops are grown on. Predicting which farmers will grow those crops and where they will do so would be foolish.
No one should tell farmers what they can and can’t grow. Farming families should be able to diversify to use their land to grow profitable, productive carbon and biodiversity crops which provide them rare drought-proof payments when and where they choose.
A case study of the agriculture-rich region of Maranoa finds an extra 14,000 – 17,000 jobs and $2 billion to $2.4 billion could be added to the Maranoa economy over the next 10 years at the same time as agriculture reduces its net emissions.
The above quotes are attributable to Farmers for Climate Action CEO Fiona Davis or Farmers for Climate Action Chair and farmer Charlie Prell.
In light of this report, Farmers for Climate Action recommends the Federal Government:
Expands the Agriculture Stewardship Package to roll out both carbon and biodiversity and enhanced remnant vegetation pilots to Australia wide, removing all barriers for involvement with strong departmental assistance for farmers across the length of the projects
Increases funding RD&E for methane emissions reduction technologies
Makes strong emissions cuts across transport and energy this decade to allow all the abatement method pathways to achieve full potential
Agriculture and climate facts:
Tens of thousands of farming families rely on Murray Darling Basin water to sustain their farms, but inflows are down 40 per cent on average since the year 2000 (CSIRO).
Research by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) shows climate change is already costing the average Australian farming family $30,000 a year.
Rural areas bear the brunt of bushfires, and the Bureau of Meteorology State of the Climate 2020 report revealed Australia is now experiencing ten times the number of extreme fire danger days it did in the 1960s (143 in the 2010s versus 14 in the 1960s).
Australia is home to around 83,000 farm businesses.
Agriculture is worth $67 billion annually to the Australian economy and employs 320,000 Australians, with plans to grow to $100 billion by 2030.
The Australian pork industry’s target is carbon neutral by 2025; red meat industry’s is 2030
Agriculture’s emissions are typically around 70 million tonnes of Co2 equivalent annually.