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  • Writer's pictureKate Stark

Farmers for Climate Action

2022 Nuffield Scholarship recipient Iain Field is implementing new technology on-farm to reduce emissions and create a sustainable enterprise. Picture supplied by Farmers for Climate Action


Agricultural lobby group Farmers for Climate Action (FCA) has called for greater Federal Government funding in the fight against climate change after a recent survey they conducted found the majority of farmers did not know where to find practical help to cut emissions.

Based on a survey of more than 600 farmers, as well as round table discussions with leading farmer and agricultural stakeholders, the Farming Forever report has called for a national approach to climate change and agriculture policy.

FCA CEO Dr Fiona Davis said the survey found farmers "overwhelmingly" want to reduce emissions but don't know where to turn and are looking for support and practical help.

"The survey found 93 per cent of farmers are willing to shift to low-emissions production, but just 30pc have had a practical demonstration on how to do so," Dr Davis said.

"We know carbon farming in a high-integrity market can produce huge benefits for farmers, but just 10pc of farmers are growing and selling carbon and 70pc say they don't understand the carbon market. Some 38pc of farmers said they do not sell carbon because they do not know how."

Dr Davis said farmers were calling for more information and education on how to reduce emissions and create new income from carbon.

"We see a role for the government to provide support for farmers by investing in emissions reduction technologies and initiatives, such as an instant tax asset write-off for renewable energy or on-farm energy storage."

Local action

Living and working in one of the most pristine parts of the world, Tasmanian farmer Iain Field is proud to be investing in sustainable farming practices. Establishing Leap Farm at Copping with wife Kate in 2012, the multi-faceted operation farms Swiss Toggenburg dairy goats and produces Tongola Cheese, in addition to beef and goat meat.

"We work really hard across the board to reduce our emissions," Iain said. "We use solar hot water to pasteurise our milk. We have a PV system that, for the bulk of the year in Tassie, is supplying more energy than we need for our farming enterprise.

"It might sound funny but we only make milk and make cheese when there's sunshine or, when there's more sunshine, we are on the grid because it's more convenient to do so - but we work across the board to reduce all of our emissions."

The couple said the farm became 'carbon positive' in 2021 and they have managed to halve their power bill through the use of solar power.

"Input prices have skyrocketed and so farmers are having to find efficiencies elsewhere and nature is one of those ways of doing it.

"It doesn't have to be a full on go like we do. But there's other ways of doing things and farmers are really interested in keeping their farms sustainable, both environmentally [and] financially."

Iain said government incentives, education programs and evidence-based support would be instrumental in helping fellow farmers navigate new pathways when it came to sustainable farming.

Regional Agricultural Landcare Facilitator Bonnie Nesbitt echoed Iain's sentiment, recognising NRM North understood many farmers were keen to make changes - but didn't know where to begin.

"Earlier this year, we released a series of Carbon Farming Fact Sheets, downloadable from the NRM North website, to help build carbon farming literacy amongst farmers and highlight key information to consider prior to engaging a carbon service provider," Bonnie said, adding farmers should continue to check online at for resources and workshops.

CEO for NRM Regions Australia Dr Kate Andrews was a guest speaker at the launch of the FCA report and said she accepted the need for systems to support adaptation and environmental market participation.

"For a market to work well, to have integrity and to provide supply as well as demand, you need good information for all players, particularly in newer markets and to make sure it's relevant and accessible," Dr Andrews said, adding trust, continuity and relevance were also important factors to consider.

"I think regional NRM organisations right around the country are doing their best to help engage with farmers and ensure that we can make the changes that are required both for farming communities and our environment."

National response

Speaking at the launch of the Farming Forever report, federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said Australian farmers were already feeling the impacts of climate change through storms, flooding and prolonged drought.

"ABARES modelling shows that, over the last 20 years, changing seasonal conditions due to climate change have reduced the average Australian's farm profitability by 23 per cent. It's already hitting farmer's bottom lines," Senator Watt said.

"The good news is that farmers and wider industry are already taking steps to lift their sustainability credentials."

Senator Watt said federal, state and territory agriculture ministers were resolved to make agricultural sustainability a shared national priority.

"I'm very pleased to tell you that those ministers, and myself included, have agreed to develop a national statement on climate change and agriculture," he said, adding the national statement was a first for Australia and will present a broad and unified vision for the agricultural sector.

"[It] will demonstrate that all levels of government are committed to supporting the sector to sustainably manage the impacts of climate change," he said.

"We have a once in a generation opportunity with government and industry now united on the risks posed by climate change and the opportunity it creates. We cannot afford to waste this opportunity."


*First published April 2023 for Tasmanian Farmer Newspaper - owned by Australian Community Media.

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