The challenges that climate change and increasing global gas emissions present for farmers in Australia are hard to predict and even harder to get consensus policy decisions on. But with every challenge comes an opportunity, and Australian farmers are well placed to become global leaders in carbon farming. Carbon farming will lead to increased revenue for farmers, with some cases requiring little to no changes to current operating procedures. Despite the confusing rhetoric surrounding the state of carbon emissions trading schemes and carbon farming, when simply put the benefits of conducting carbon farming on agricultural land can be significant for the farmers bottom line, their soil health and the long term sustainability of their business.
What is Carbon Sequestration?
Ensuring clear communication of the process and the benefits farmers can ascertain from carbon farming should be a key focus of agricultural and environmental stakeholders. Carbon farming is any land management technique that results in carbon sequestration (the term given to the process of removing atmospheric carbon). There is a significant amount of different techniques any farmer can undertake to become a carbon farmer, and many farmers are already doing them. Some examples include:
- Maximising groundcover
- No till cultivation
- Pasture cropping
- Stubble retention
- Applying natural fertilisers
- Grazing management
It stands to show that many farmers can and should be getting revenue in the form of carbon offsets sold on the free market for activities they are already doing.
Benefits of Carbon Farming
On top of the clear benefits of receiving income, these carbon farming activities also provide substantial benefits to farm land including:
- Improved soil structure
- Increased organic matter in soil
- Improved water holding capacity
- Reduced erosion and runoff
- Improved overall health of soil
Many of these management practices are being undertaken by the regenerative agriculture industry already, and carbon farming only increases the incentive to switch to or develop regenerative practices on Australian farms.
Once a farmer has decided which carbon farming project they want to undertake, it is just a case of ensuring that the paperwork is all in order, then farmers can start earning Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCU) which will then allow farmers to auction off the carbon they have offset (by tonne) into the auction platform under the emission trading scheme.
Carbon Farming Future in Australia
Carbon farming will become a pivotal part of Australian agriculture, and farmers stand to benefit significantly from the increased climate conscious policies that Carbon farming is a part of. The challenge for Government and Agribusinesses involved in the category is to make the adoption process transparent and simple to understand. When farmers are advised of the relatively simple changes they can make, how to make that change officially recognised and demonstrating the earnings per hectare potential, carbon farming will move from a ‘why should I do it’ to a ‘when can I start’ question for farmers.