Farmers in six different trial regions will soon have the chance to diversify their farm income and improve their drought resilience as part of a new Australian Government trial launched.
Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said the Carbon+Biodiversity pilot, being delivered under the government’s Agricultural Stewardship Package, will see farmers being paid for the biodiversity benefits of mixed-species tree plantings on top of eligible carbon projects.
“Farmers have been doing biodiversity and carbon work for decades and it’s time they were paid for it. They can already participate in carbon markets under the Emissions Reduction Fund, but today we will start trialling a new approach that will also see them paid for the biodiversity benefits they deliver.
“We don’t want to lock up land, we want this work to go hand in hand with a productive farming enterprise. Our farmers produce some of the best food and fibre in the world and we want to reward them for delivering positive outcomes for the community, while also improving the financial sustainability of their own farm business.
As part of the pilot, the Australian National University has created the processes and protocols that measure and reward farmers for undertaking the plantings, delivering a system that will be respected by international markets.
ANU Professor Andrew Macintosh said farmers will be paid for planting blocks or shelterbelts of 20 metres or wider using one of the lists of native plant species created for this pilot.
“This system delivers rewards for farmers that are achieving measurable biodiversity gains,” Professor Macintosh said.
“If planting areas include mature trees, are near watercourses, or provide good habitat for threatened species, this gives the project a higher biodiversity benefit score. If a bushfire comes through and the trees do not naturally regenerate, the farmer is expected to replant but does not need to pay any money back.”
Cattle Council CEO Travis Tobin said nearly 80 per cent of Australia’s agricultural land is cattle country, and beef producers have indicated biodiversity is a priority for them.
“Cattle Council supports opportunities to diversify farm income while improving on-farm biodiversity.
“This pilot is for producers that want to be rewarded for their environmental work and it respects the producer’s right to choose.”
Six Natural Resource Management (NRM) regions across Australia have been selected to be included in the pilot: Burnett-Mary (QLD), Central West (NSW), North Central (VIC), North Tasmania (TAS), Eyre Peninsula (SA) and South-west (WA). Regions have been selected, amongst other criteria, to test the program across a range of jurisdictions, farming systems, and vegetation types.
Burnett Mary Regional NRM Group CEO Sheila Charlesworth said her group was thrilled to be part of the pilot.
“We will assist the farmers in our region to be part of this groundbreaking pilot, which will deliver a premium price whilst also rewarding them for protecting our natural resources.”
For more details or to apply for the program, please go to website.
Hypothetical case study:
Jane and Joe are beef farmers who own 500 hectares. They decide to plant 10 per cent, or 50ha, of the property into shelterbelts and block plantings, incorporating some of the old trees already on the farm. The plantings are designed to boost productivity by providing shelter for their cattle and addressing erosion issues in gullies and hillsides. Jane and Joe continue to farm beef on the remaining 90 per cent of their farm.
Jane and Joe will receive payments from the Carbon + Biodiversity Pilot for the first three years of the project and carbon credits for at least 25 years, which can be sold to the Australian Government under the Emissions Reduction Fund or to private buyers. If the plantings are well managed, the profit from the plantings will be greater than what Jane and Joe would have otherwise earned from the land. They should also see an increase in beef production from the improvement in shelter. Overall, the plantings should boost the returns from their farm and provide them with improved drought resilience.
Jane and Joe have contributed to making their community more sustainable – both from a climate and biodiversity perspective – while increasing and diversifying their farm income.
Source: Australian Government