Carbon tax credits for agriculture?

Updated: 24/07/2008

source: Stock & Land, Vic 24 July 2008

Trading in carbon could be a real winner for farmers, if common sense prevails.

The politics of carbon trading are unfortunately well ahead of the science right now, particularly agricultural science.

With most of the nation paranoid about what fuel, electricity and food will do under a carbon trading scheme, few have even thought of where the carbon offsets will come from to “save us all”.

Trading in carbon could be a real winner for farmers, if common sense prevails.

Any secondary school student will tell you, the role of agriculture in the carbon cycle is to take carbon from the atmosphere and place it in living things – plants, animals and soil microbes.

Wow, that sounds like a great way to reduce atmospheric carbon!

Yes cows and sheep belch and fart but common sense will tell you that agriculture’s net effect has to be positive if farmers are doing their job properly and profitably.

The more efficiently carbon is fixed into living things, the better it should be for the environment.

Inefficient use of fertilser, fuel, feed or even fire, constitute losses of carbon.

Farmers are in the business of growing a natural resource, not losing it and this fits in perfectly with carbon trading.

The advent of the Landcare movement in Victoria over 20 years ago, led to the recognition of farmers as good land managers, before the movement was sadly hijacked by bureaucracy and died.

The carbon debate should again prove that good farmers build things from carbon – it’s how they have made a living since the first seed was planted by man.

Could carbon trading be the next Landcare?

The financial opportunities stemming from carbon trading could be enormous and systems in the United States are already rewarding farmers for their soil carbon management.

You don’t have to plant trees and leave them there forever to help save the planet.

Stubble retention, minimum tillage and building up fertility in soil may well be a great way to make money as well as practise good agriculture.

All we need to wait for is some good science, good policies and hopefully some good seasons.

Related articles:

“Soil carbon: just do it” by MATT CAWOOD Stock & Land 17/07/2008

“Soil carbon a must for emissions trading – Garnaut” LUCY SKUTHORP Rural Press 09/07/2008

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