ONCE the domain of large, marginal areas in far flung parts of the country, carbon farming now has become a viable income stream for smaller farms.
"There's a hotbed of potential now," says Carbon Farmers of Australia director Louisa Kiely.
"Farmers are being paid good money because of the global demand for carbon credits."
The mining, airline and shipping industries are responsible for massive global carbon emissions and are looking to buy their way out of trouble by promoting ways of removing carbon dioxide equivalents from the atmosphere. It's a distinct bid to placate shareholders, whose money enables the companies to scale up.
Enter Australian farmers, who through planting trees and managing cropping and pasture enterprises can create on-property carbon sinks.
The federal government has set a price for an Australian carbon credit unit (ACCU) of about $15, which is sold via the Emmissions Reduction Fund and pans out to about $13.80 per tonne of carbon returned to the earth.
The companies buying the ACCU's can then offset those credits to allow them to reduce their carbon footprint.
For example the North Australia Pastoral Company, which manages 6.1 million hectares in Queensland and the Northern Territory, has declared itself carbon neutral by buying carbon credits while it aligns its business to have less impact on the environment.
But while Australian companies can buy carbon credits on the international market, which are generally much cheaper, Australian farmers cannot sell their CCUs internationally.
Mrs Kiely said government should take the lead on the issue by allowing the global market to set prices, which, she said, would be a logical stance for a coalition government to take.
Corryong, Victoria, organic dairy farmer Stephen Whitsed is now preparing to sell soil carbon credits for what he considers simply improving his farm's productivity.
"If you can increase your soil carbon by 1 per cent, you increase its ability to hold water - by 140,000 litres per hectare," he said.
Mr Whitsed is using a SoilKee renovator on his property.
LEADING carbon farmers and those interested in starting up will meet in Albury next month for a four-day conference.
A benefactor has agreed to meet 50 per cent of the costs for any Australian farmer looking to attend the educational lectures on August 6 and 7.
The conference begins on August 5 and ends August 8 at the Albury Entertainment Centre.
Carbon Farmers Australia director Louisa Kiely said farmers would be travelling from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Nepal to attend.
"Internationally farmers can supply significant climate change mitigation," she said.
Mrs Kiely said she and husband Michael had first learned about the potential of carbon farming from Bruce Maynard, of the former Central West Catchment Management Authority.