Thursday, June 23, 2011

Questions About Carbon Farming "Market Trials"

The Carbon Farming & Trading Association welcomes the NSW State Government's announcement of a 'trial market' for Carbon Farming in the Lachlan Catchment of NSW. 300 farmers will be invited to get involved in a 5 year trial of soil carbon sequestration. But the fact that a State Government program should be launched just as a Commonwealth Government program is about to be passed by Parliament and commence on 1st July, 2011 prompts the Association to offer farmers the following questions to ask before committing to a contract:
1. How will involvement in this program affect the farmer's ability to enter the national market under the Carbon Farming Initiative?
2. Would involvement in a soil carbon scheme disqualify the farmer under the Additionality Principle which demands that a land management practice cannot generate offsets if it is 'business as usual'? There must be a shift in behaviour to a new land management regime to qualify for Carbon Offsets under the Carbon Farming Initiative.
3. Will the involvement of 300 farmers in 3 districts push all farmers in those districts out of the CFI program under the "Common Practice" requirement, which says that a farmer is likely to make the change anyway when many others are changing?
4. What method for measurement of soil carbon will be used in the State Government program and will it be recognised under the CFI?
5. Will the contract require that the soil carbon captured be held for 100 years? This is a requirement of the Permanence Principle.
6. Will the farmer be free to use combinations of land management practices together to maximise soul carbon sequestration, as is the standard practice with experienced carbon farmers? If the program allows only for single practice change (eg. from conventional to no-till cultivation) it will not be a fair trial of what farmers can do.
7. Are farmers to be rewarded for the actual amounts of carbon they capture?

The State Government proposes this program (which is more like an incentive-based extension program that a trading scheme) as an alternative to the Commonwealth's market model. The State Minister says that the program will reveal the best way to pay farmers for sequestering carbon in soil. But do Governments have the resources to fund a permanent shift in agricultural practices?

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