April 27, 2022

Haines announces plan to secure future of farming

Helen Haines has announced a plan to establish a network of 200 agricultural extension officers, located in regional hubs across Australia, to work with individual farms on implementing emissions reduction strategies.

Australian farmers would benefit from on-the-ground technical support to help them access carbon markets, adopt new low-emissions technologies, and retain access to export markets under the proposal announced by the Independent Federal Member for Indi.

Speaking from the sheep farm of local Ed Mercer near Euroa, Haines said the Government hadsigned up Australia to a net zero emissions target, but has failed to outline the pathway foragriculture to get there.

“Regional Australians understand we have the most to gain from transitioning to net zeroemissions. But it needs to be done right, and our agriculture sector needs a roadmap to get there. Right now, the Government has given us a target but zero plans or policies.”

Under Haines’ plan, extension officers would work one-on-one with farmers to estimate their emissions, and help to either reduce on-farm emissions, or earn carbon credits to offset emissions. She said the network of officers was critical to keep the agriculture sector strong inthe net zero transition.

“Many farmers remember what it was like when we had the old ag extension officers. Theywere critical back in the day to help roll out new practices like stubble retention, mixedcropping, and pest management.”

“Australian farmers want to take advantage of a new wave of technological change,transforming their businesses and reducing their emissions. My plan is about giving farmers the tools they need to succeed, to grow their businesses and reduce emissions at the same time.

“Australian farmers are facing a new wave of technological change – electric and hydrogen-based farm vehicles, soil-carbon sequestration, new feed supplements, all sorts of things.

“We can’t just tell farmers they need to change their ways, we need to actually invest in farmers to make sure they can get the most out of a net zero emission economy.

“There are over 80,000 farming businesses in Australia, and 95% of them are small to medium sized businesses with under $2 million in revenue. The Government likes to say it’s investing intechnology, but also need to invest in rolling that technology out to these small businesses.”

Under Haines’ plan, individual farmers could also choose to become certified as net zero emissions farms, which would protect their access to critical export markets.

“Right now, countries around the world are drawing up plans to slap tariffs on Australian agricultural imports because our Government has not done enough to tackle climate change.

“There’s a very real risk that Australian farmers will end up paying the price of the Government’s inaction. I don’t want to see farmers in Euroa or Benalla punished because the Federal Government hasn’t done their job properly.”

Haines says her plan mirrors key elements of the election platform from the National FarmersFederation.

“The NFF’s election platform calls for the next Government to establish a long-term extension program to support farmers and landholders to take advantage of new research and technology, mitigation practices and to participate in new markets. My proposal today is exactly what the NFF has called for.”

If each extension officer worked with 20 farmers per year, then over the four-year life of theprogram it would support up to 16,000 farmers. That means this policy would directly support one in five Australian farms.

The policy is fully costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office at $32 million a year.

“If the Government can find $7 billion to build dams in Queensland that don’t have a business case, I reckon they could scrape together the money for this, which would have a huge benefit for Australian agriculture and the economy.”

“I grew up on a dairy farm and I raise beef cattle today. Farming is my bones. And I don’t thinkthat farmers have had a proper look in as the Government has come up with its climate policies.I am determined to fix that, and I will fight for the next Government to take up this idea.”

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