28 February 2023

Haines launches plan to support farmers take action on climate change

Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines says the Government must support farmers to reduce emissions and access lucrative carbon markets, launching a plan to give practical support and advice through a network of extension officers.

Ahead of the Federal Budget in May, Dr Haines has called on the Government to fund a network of 200 agricultural extension officers across 20 regional centres to support farmers to achieve Carbon Neutral certification, as well as implement new technologies and practices that help reduce emissions.

“Farmers must be at the forefront of Government planning for action on climate change. Farming currently generates 16 per cent of Australia’s emissions. At the same time, we know farmers are already feeling the effects of climate change on their land and their businesses,” Dr Haines said.

“When I talk to farmers across Indi, I hear a consistent message that farmers want to reduce emissions and participate in the carbon market, but there is simply not enough support to do so. They are already working huge hours to run their farm businesses and this program would provide relevant, local information that would actually help them.”

In a speech to the Farming Carbon conference in Beechworth on Tuesday, Dr Haines said it was vital that on-the-ground support for farmers was delivered, and extension is already a critical part of the agricultural world.

“The extension officers would help farmers one-on-one to adopt the technology, products and farming practices that would help them lower their emissions, access carbon credits, and achieve net zero emissions,” she said in the speech.

“It could also help them access other Government programs, like the nature repair market that will generate biodiversity credits.”

In the lead up to the 2022 election, the policy was costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office at $32 million a year, or $128 million over four years. Farms which reduce their emissions would be able to participate in Australia’s carbon markets by earning and selling Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs), either to the Emissions Reduction Fund or on the private market to companies seeking to offset their emissions.

“There are clear economic reasons to help farmers reduce their emissions and take part in practices like storing carbon in soils or planting trees. They can make money in the domestic carbon market and make their farms more productive, but that’s just the start.

“We know reducing emissions across farming has been an issue in the free trade agreement negotiations with the European Union and our farmers could face tariffs from countries around the world due to a lack of climate action so far. My plan would help protect our industry’s access to overseas markets.”

Dr Haines represents Indi in North East Victoria, where agricultural industries include beef, dairy, sheep, grain, fruit and viticulture.

“I grew up on a dairy farm and still raise beef cattle today. Farming is a major industry in Indi and I want to make sure Government supports farmers to act on climate change in ways that will reduce emissions, adopt cutting edge practices and increase productivity and profit.

“The benefits of this program wouldn’t end with mitigating or reducing emissions. This includes things like minimising soil erosion, increasing water retention and improving biodiversity.

“A wholistic approach to land management is crucial.  A team of trusted, known, neutral agricultural extension officers would help farmers navigate and negotiate the unknown and complex terrain that is the carbon and biodiversity markets.”

Dr Haines has met with Agriculture Minister Murray Watt several times since the election to pitch the program.

“I am confident that Minister Murray Watt understands the value of a policy like this. He knows how important it is to offer real support to farmers and I am committed to working with the Government to make this happen. I hope to see this in the Budget in May and rolled out soon after.”

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