A CLIMATE change policy seeking to maintain Australian grains domestic and global competitiveness while reducing emissions and increasing carbon sequestration has been launched by GrainGrowers.
The policy was endorsed by GrainGrowers' National Policy Group (elected grower representatives) and is designed to further enhance Australian growers' ability to operate sustainably and prosper in a changing climate.
The key message of the policy is the support of net zero carbon by 2050 for agriculture and the need to develop a grain specific target for 2030 within the next 18 months.
It also calls for co-ordinated government policies and strategies to address climate change while supporting economic, environmental and social growth, as well as investment, development and adoption of innovation and technology which enables farmers to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
GrainGrowers chairman Brett Hosking said it is an ambitious policy and that the organisation needs to work closely with industry and government to deliver the science, skills and initiatives to support it.
"The Agriculture Ministers' Forum (AGMIN) has already committed to developing a climate change strategy but our grains industry needs a seat at the table to achieve practical and profitable outcomes," Mr Hosking said.
"Both government and growers, as the key levy funders need to make sure that research and extension across research development corporations (RDCs) are co-ordinated to deliver benefit for every farmer, regardless of their enterprise mix."
According to the policy, GrainGrowers recognises that the risks of climate change and climate variability to the grains sector are significant and impact every farm business.
"We recognise climate change also creates new opportunities for innovation and growth for the agricultural sector," it said.
"As a major land holder, Australian agriculture has responsibility to manage the landscape and is well positioned to positively contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
"Potential opportunities and new income streams for farmers may arise while transitioning to a low emissions economy and through participating in active carbon markets."
With global companies and key markets requiring firm commitments on sustainability credentials, it is important that a proactive approach including a reduction in the carbon footprint be adopted without sacrificing the productivity and profitability of growers.
According to the policy, GrainGrowers is seeking research development and extension (RD&E) investment to:
Identify the baseline carbon footprint of the grain industry.
RD&E investment to identify pathways to carbon neutrality (net zero) or better which are economically and socially feasible, followed by associated extension and adoption programs.
A consistent approach to carbon accounting and measurement across agricultural sectors to enable accurate measurement and assist with calculating mitigation efforts and offsets; and
Risk management tools and insurance models that enable businesses to mitigate climate risks.
The policy also suggested regulation should not unfairly impose farmers with the cost of achieving national emission reductions objectives, plus regulations and legislation should encourage access to and adoption of innovations and technologies which support climate mitigation and adaption activities.
It also included a need for government funded education programs to be developed and provided to assist farmers' understanding of carbon generation, offsets and markets which may impact their business.
That should include targeted extension programs which outline potential income opportunities for farmers from carbon markets.
While Australian growers are used to adapting their farming practises because of climate variability, it is important the grains sector remains a global example of a proactive and innovative sector by recognising the impacts of climate change.
"There are real opportunities for farmers to diversify their income, improve their farming businesses and deliver environmental and social outcomes," Mr Hosking said.
"We want to protect and enhance our clean and green reputation and ensure farmers are rewarded for doing so."