Sunday, 1 July 2012

Carbon Policy: What the beef industry needs to know

This is a summary of Charlie McElhone’s (National Farmer’s Federation - General Manager for Policy) presentation to the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) Workshop in Darwin on 3 April 2012.

The NFF has been supportive of the CFI, which is a voluntary, market based mechanism that uses a carrot not a stick approach. Despite uncertainties in its application, the CFI demonstrates the positive role agriculture can play in carbon mitigation. However, the NFF was and is still opposed to the carbon tax.

Opportunities for cattle producers appear to be focused on mitigation of methane produced by cattle. However, abatement potential is uncertain and methodologies to implement and record additional abatement are yet to be developed. Nevertheless, if or when methodologies are developed, they are likely to be associated with productivity gains, so financial co-benefits may be generated.

Risks for cattle producers include:

·         Permanence requirements for any sequestered carbon;

·         Price uncertainty (international carbon markets)

·         Sovereign policy risk (future of the Carbon Tax) – voluntary vs regulatory markets

·         Carbon sharks[1]

A significant and comprehensive education task will be needed for farmers looking to engage[2].

The carbon tax will be introduced on 1 July 2012. NFF will be trying to:

·         minimise the impacts (e.g. food processor provisions); and

·         optimize the opportunities (CFI & Clean Energy Future programs).

o   Carbon Farming Futures

§  Filling the Research Gap

§  Action on the Ground

§  Extension and Outreach

o   Biodiversity Fund

o   Carbon Farming Skills

o   Indigenous Carbon farming Fund

Despite talk of repeal after the next election, non-regulatory drivers for reduced CO2-equivalent emissions will remain a reality. For example:

·         Consumer driven standards, labelling (e.g. food miles); and

·         Potential trade protectionism against carbon-intense products.

Australian farmers must position themselves for these market influences.

Listen to an interview with Charlie and Lewis Tyndall at the workshop.

[1] DCCEE’s Carbon Farming Skills Initiative will commence in July 2012 and aims to develop a nationally accredited qualification for carbon service providers; accreditation of carbon brokers and aggregators; and information workshops for farm extension officers and rural service providers

[2] DAFF’s proposed Extension and Outreach Program is designed to provide technical information and support for farmers and land managers so they can participate and benefit from carbon farming

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