Green paper puts cane at further risk of forestry

17 Jul, 2008 12:59 PM

The Federal Government's climate change green paper could further expose the cane industry to a loss of land to forestry expansion, lobby group Canegrowers has warned.

Canegrowers acting chief executive, Ron Mullins, says that including forestry at the beginning of the emissions trading scheme in 2010, while agriculture is excluded, "may give it an unfair advantage".

"[It] could divert more good quality agriculture land to trees and further distort the market which is a major concern in the sugarcane industry," Mr Mullins said.

The discussion paper proposes agriculture's exclusion from a scheme until 2015, even though the scheme itself will start in 2010.

Despite the time lag, Canegrowers is warning farmers that their finances will still be hit due to the impact on other industries upon which they depend.

Mr Mullins says the agriculture's exclusion is welcomed as the practicalities of measuring, monitoring and verifying emissions still need to be overcome.

But he warns cane growers will feel the impact because they operate in an energy intensive industry.

"Sugarcane growing uses energy and energy-intensive inputs and growers will be forced to pay more with the introduction of a 'carbon pollution or emissions' tax on energy, especially electricity and diesel used for harvesting, fertiliser, transport and water," Mr Mullins said.

"The Government says the impact of the scheme on petrol costs will be neutral for the first three years.

"We'll be seeking detail on how that will apply to existing fuel tax credits applicable to primary production during those three years and thereafter.

"It is a concern that the Green Paper does not explicitly direct new funds towards research and development of low emissions technology, which is at odds with Professor Garnaut's recommendation that 20pc of revenue generated from emissions permits be directed towards such research."

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18/07/2008 5:30:41 AM

Is this likely to be offset by the use of Bio-char (terra preta) when it is established. This should be able to see a payment to Cane Farmers for permanently sequestering carbon back onto the farm. This will also reduce the use of nitrogenous fertilisers and so is not just a sequestration (a '50s throw away the garbage mindset) but a valid re-use of the carbon as a valuable industrial product. Bio-char is far more able to be quantified as a sequestration technique than the current coal industry approch of pumping CO2 underground and hoping it doesn't return. i.e. The bury it with the fairies at the bottom of the garden approach.
18/07/2008 7:38:00 AM

Farmers are at the end of the price chain and will cop the full impact of increases in costs of inputs but will not be able to either claim against any emmission trading or offset the additional input costs. But it won't effect consumers, unlike other businesses, farmers just can't simply add on the extra costs to their price. Eventually they will simply give up trying and Australia will have to rely on primary production from overseas, it is then that consumers will pay dearly, in value, in quality and in unacceptible (Australian standards) chemical residuals levels in food. (and probably from a country that has no method or reducing carbon emmissions).
21/07/2008 4:47:01 AM

While we have runaway fuel, labour, fertilizer and chemical costs, how can you be critical of forestry companies when our own industry has failed to provide adequate support and rewards. There is no point in blaming the MIS forestry companies for our own shortcomings, and don't give me that old chestnut that they have an unfair taxation advantage. They get the identical treatment from the Taxation Dept as farmers in-which their input costs are deductible in the year that they were incurred. Why wouldn't anyone question the sanity of a farmer that plants a crop with hardly any expectation that there will be a profit in it? Unless there is widespread sugar-to-ethanol and cellulose-to-ethanol at all the sugar mills soon, there will only be half of the mills operating in the next few years.


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