There was lively debate on the panel session of dinner event component at our Field Day. It is well known that Mick Keogh from Australian Farm Institute has a fairly conservative view about the benefits for farmers from the Carbon Farming Initiative. Keen to put forward a balanced perspective we invited Stephen Wiedemann from FSA who says he sits in the middle and already has some projects for the pig industry in the pipeline that may deliver for farmers. And at the other end of the spectrum to Mick was Louisa Kiely the glass half full girl on the panel and co-founder of Carbon Farmers of Australia who have developed a trading model for soil carbon which gives farmers access to markets before the formal Emissions Trading Scheme begins.
Dr Richard Eckard Mick Keogh Dr Neil Moss Stephen Wiedemann and Louisa Kiely provided a lively debate
I was MC for the event and currently waiting on the photographers in the room to send me pictures so I can share some of the insights from the podium and the floor with you. Not forgetting Department Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry taped the entire event ( not sure how long that will take to be a wrap).
Lots of questions from a diverse audience
So I thought in the meantime I would share some of Mick’s humour on the CFI with you.
This excerpt comes from If I get paid for not having cows, can I get paid a lot more for not having a lot more cows?
There has been a steady stream of publicity about farmers starting to make money out of carbon farming, but it seems the only way to actually generate real money will be by destocking cattle. This begs the question – if I plan to have a lot of cattle then agree not to, can I get paid more than if I just planned to have a few cattle then decide not to?!!
A rough estimate is that each adult cow generates approximately 2 tonnes CO2-e per annum, so each cow not run on a property presumably could generate $46 in offset credits in the official carbon market from July 2012 – presuming that by then a Methodology involving destocking cattle has been recognised under the Carbon Farming Initiative legislation.
Whether or not such a methodology will be accepted is an interesting question! Destocking cattle on one property will reduce national beef production, resulting in higher prices (all else being equal) which will encourage either Australian or overseas cattle producers to increase their cattle numbers, with the result being no net change in cattle emissions in the atmosphere (a phenomena known as ‘leakage’).
If a destocking methodology is recognised under the Carbon Farming Initiative, it raises some interesting questions for livestock producers. For example, if destocking credits are calculated based on a reduction from current cattle or sheep numbers, the best thing to do would be to absolutely stack on stock fence-to-fence, at very high stocking rates, then undertake to get rid of them all! This would generate a lot more credits in perpetuity than would be available for someone with low stock numbers.
In fact, there would be many opportunities generated by such a development. A business opportunity could quickly emerge for properties where stock from farms involved in generating destocking credits could be sent for ‘holidays’ in case the auditor was due to check that stock numbers had been reduced. Conversely, a good market could develop for rental stock – stock that could be ‘borrowed’ for a short while to prove high stock numbers prior to destocking!
Australian farmers have long been envious of their European friends, who for many years have been able to generate money by not farming. Finally it seems the Australian Government has taken up the idea!!