In all the doom and gloom about climate change, it's easy to dwell on negatives.
But this week, a report highlighted positive opportunities for farmers created by strong climate policy.
And we all know it's about time farmers were rewarded for the good work they already do on carbon and biodiversity which benefits all Australians.
Economic consultant Ernst and Young's report was commissioned by Farmers for Climate Action.
Key findings were:
- Farming families can diversify their incomes, increase productivity and profit from strong climate policy.
- Agriculture can increase productivity whilst it easily achieves net zero emissions by the year 2040 without shrinking the size of the beef herd nor sheep flock.
The benefits to farmers include income diversification, increased productivity, foreign market access and better drought resilience. The report names more than 10 suggested methods of reducing net emissions, including improved pasture management, selective breeding, feed supplements and vaccines which reduce methane output, and carbon and biodiversity crops.
Farmers have been planting shelterbelts for decades because it's good practice.
As big companies seek to buy carbon credits to offset their emissions, farmers will be able to sell carbon and biodiversity credits from new plantings.
These payments continue through drought because they're based on a model which has already factored drought into its payments. Farmers will also likely plant their carbon and biodiversity crops on sections of the farms that suit them.
Critically, the report predicts carbon and biodiversity crops will take up just 0.9 per cent of farmland.
The case study of the Maranoa region found an extra 14,000 - 17,000 jobs and $2 billion to $2.4 billion could be added to the local economy over the next 10 years as agriculture reduces its net emissions to zero.
We all know the challenges climate change is presenting to Australian agriculture's 83,000 farmers. Data from the CSIRO says Murray Darling Basin inflows are down 40 per cent on average since the year 2000. And according to ABARES, climate change costs the average Australian farming family $30,000 a year.
It's time for strong climate policy to protect the Australian farming families who grow our food.
- Peter Walsh is Leader of The Nationals in Victoria, Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Local MP for the regional electorate of Murray Plains and a former farmer.