Farming a share of $2b

Australia's carbon market is open to farmers


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Agronomist and Soil Management Systems managing director Brenton Byerlee with Carbon Cockie of the Year, Cobar's Peter Yench, at the awards night in Albury. Photo: Dan Pedersen

Agronomist and Soil Management Systems managing director Brenton Byerlee with Carbon Cockie of the Year, Cobar's Peter Yench, at the awards night in Albury. Photo: Dan Pedersen

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Storing carbon dioxide equivalents in soil and plants could reverse climate change.

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ESTABLISHING metrics to prove increased soil carbon sequestration is essential for farmers to cash in on more than $2 billion worth of Australian Carbon Credit Units now on the market.

An ACCU represents one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent either stored or avoided by any project.

The latest spot trades have ACCUs at $15.25.

Frontier Impact Group managing director Jennifer Lauber-Patterson told Carbon Farmers of Australia's ninth conference in Albury last week farmers "must get their share" of $2 billion being offered for projects that store carbon for 100 years.

"Farmers and financiers must communicate," said Ms Lauber-Patterson.

We've got what we need now, a funding model, it's different now, farmers can make a big difference and they have to, we have no choice. - Jennifer Lauber-Patterson

She said farmers must establish metrics to prove how much carbon a farm could store. "Measurement is very important for investment confidence.

"New technologies are providing that information and can create cenrtainty for investors," she said.

Financiers would have to come to understand the potential of land and the great variables on any given farm, which was why measurements were so important, she said. She said it was critical that farmers engaged in the carbon credit business.

"We've got what we need now, a funding model, it's different now, farmers can make a big difference and they have to, we have no choice," said Ms Lauber-Patterson.

Southern Cross University's Lorraine Gordon pulled no punches when adressing the conference: "We've caused heatwaves, floods and refugees, wars over food and water are coming."

She said the world was running out of phosporous and there "will be none left in 50 years". Since the 1950s the use of pesticides and fertilisers had been increasing but "bang for your buck is going backwards".

She said current farming practices were prime examples of the law of diminishing returns.

"It's like being a madman." Ms Gordon said regenerative agriculture was the way forwards - leaving the soil in a better state - and getting back to the basics of ecology. She said there were many co-benefits in placing economic values on environmental assets and all values coexisted in agriculture and that contributed to climate resilience.

"There are great opportunities here for the investment sector. How will a farm stack up in 50 years' time? The finance and insurance sectors must be able to measure that," she said.

Ms Gordon said the planet was looking to hit a two degree Celsius average temperature increase soon.

"The Ice Age was a five degree change." she said.

Agronomist and Soil Management Systems managing director Brenton Byerlee said farmers he had encountered were confused about improving their soils when he spoke with them.

He said most of Australia's agricultural land now had about half the organic carbon that virgin soils did.

He showed the conference a slide of virgin soil, where a fence once stood. The old fenceline dissected what is now a single paddock.

The side showed performance of crop panted on the old fenceline was clearly better than the rest of the paddock.

Mr Byerlee said farmers must get back to basics and start bolstering organic carbon levels in their soil again.

"Soil is the foundation of every farming business, we need to talk about the soil's ability to mineralise nutrients so they are available to plants."

Mr Byerlee said once you explained to farmers by boosting soil carbon you could double your carrying capacity, they listened.

He said there must be a great diversity of soil life.

Carbon8 co-founder Helen McCosker spoke of charity's efforts to join sponsors to help fund and willing Australian farmers to adopt regenerative practices.

Carbon8 co-founder Helen McCosker spoke of charity's efforts to join sponsors to help fund and willing Australian farmers to adopt regenerative practices.

Helen McCosker and her husband Michael are the co-founders of Carbon8, a charity established to connect sponsors with regenerative farmers.

"It's a system to help transition Aussies farms to regenerative farms," said Ms McCosker.

She said the family became involved in sustainable farming came after their farm system crashed.

"We were high yielding with big inputs and the farm system crashed, along with Mike's health," said Ms McCosker.

She said together they had organised National Regenerative Ag Day in February this year on a shoestring budget of $150. "We must get both foodies and farmers involved, because the outcome will be better food, water retention and biodiversity."

Ms McCosker said Carbon8 was putting together regenerative farming packs, including Charles Massy's book 'The Call of the Reed Warbler' and DVDs as a step towards a longer-term mentoring process for farmers looking to change their farming practices.

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