AGRICULTURE and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan defended comments she made at a recent carbon farming forum in which she suggested that, in some regions, up to 20 per cent of agricultural land could be used for tree planting.
Speaking at the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development agricultural industry update last month, Ms MacTiernan acknowledged that her comments had caused "a great deal of consternation" within the sector, but said that the department's job was to not only work with industry, but to also "look at what is coming over the horizon and work with farmers to drive new frontiers".
"That means that occasionally you have to throw new concepts and ideas out there, most of which have come from parts of the farming community," Ms MacTiernan said.
"I had the audacity to reflect on the fact that most farmers see themselves as a business and the fundamental business, as far as I understand it, was about profitability, not necessarily about yield.
"I made an argument that instead of yield being the focus of all of our research, profitability might actually be the right end point and that apparently got some people a little bit up in arms."
Ms MacTiernan again highlighted strategic tree planting and biodiversity as sources of income for farmers and said these moves would help the sector to meet the goal of carbon neutrality as well as meet market demand.
WAFarmers chief executive Trevor Whittington said the minister's call to plant trees or bury carbon was not going to provide a long-term solution or viable alternative income to current day cropping returns.
"Ministers that think it is viable to sign up a broadacre farm to carbon farming or give up on the god of yield need to sit down with an agricultural economist and go through the numbers," Mr Whittington said.
At the agricultural update, Ms MacTiernan said research and development for the industry remained a major focus of the department and that a potential $8 billion harvest from WA growers this year would strengthen the case for an increase in Grains Research and Development Corporation funding.
Want weekly news highlights delivered to your inbox? Sign up to the Farm Weekly newsletter.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.