Farming export success linked to sustainability

There’s an increasing demand on Australian producers to prove their sustainability credentials with export sales dependent on growers being able to back up their claims.

Overseas buyers are increasingly asking farmers to provide detailed evidence of their sustainability performance, the boss of the Australian Farm Institute Richard Heath, has told a carbon farming forum.

“We are getting this feedback from our trade negotiators overseas and our agricultural ambassadors,” he said.

The carbon farming sector and its regulators are working to improve the quality of publicly available carbon farming data.

The Cairns conference was told data on carbon farming and nature repair projects needed to focus on landscape impacts as well as those at the farm gate.

The carbon market institute’s John Connor said comprehensive data was essential to demonstrate the integrity of landscape-based carbon projects.

And the institute’s boss welcomed progress following the review of the Australian Carbon Credit Unit scheme, which found improvement was needed.

“We commend both the government and the regulator for acting on the ACCU review recommendations for greater transparency,” he said.

“This is a vital step in ensuring investor and community confidence in the scheme, but must be adequately resourced and also take into account the complexities of the data release process.”

Earlier, the forum was told a huge amount of work was being done on the design of nature repair markets in Australia and overseas.

“The urgent need for environmental repair is very clear,” the institute’s Janet Hallows said

“Credit markets are increasingly recognised as a mechanism that can drive finance towards biodiversity protection, regeneration and stewardship.”

The conference was also told that farmers and governments “stepping on each other’s toes” with competing information could risk the carbon farming market reaching its potential.

“Cut through that static,” Tom Webster from Queensland’s environment and science department told regulators, project managers and farmers on the second day of the two-day carbon forum in Cairns.

Officials said federal and state government agencies were working to give landholders clear and reliable advice on carbon farming.

But Mr Webster warned there was a danger landowners would opt to wait, unsure which option was right for them.

He cautioned governments to avoid “stepping on each other’s toes with their various outreach programs, tools and resources”, noting the Queensland government had provided grants for a network of carbon farming advisers.

Federal Labor committed $20 million to a new carbon farming outreach program in May’s budget.

The Clean Energy Regulator, the agency responsible for administering the carbon credit scheme, has signalled long-awaited data on projects that earn carbon credits would be released next week.

Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen told the forum on Monday new governance and transparency arrangements were now in place.

The government will release a detailed implementation plan the Chubb review recommendations in coming weeks, he said.


Liv Casben and Marion Rae
(Australian Associated Press)


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