Carbon farming - your questions answered - Elders Rural Services

There’s a lot of discussion about carbon farming in Australia. What is it? How does it work? How do I get involved?

With so much information to be consumed, we’ve put together a list of the most commonly asked questions.
Read on to find out the answers and unlock potential opportunities for your agri-business.

Carbon farming is the process of storing and/or reducing the sequestration of carbon from your agricultural business.

Carbon is the backbone of all life on earth and flows through the environment in what is called the carbon cycle. The major forms of significance to agriculture are soil organic carbon (C), methane (CH4) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2). For accounting purposes, all forms are converted into CO2 equivalents.

There are numerous ways to participate in carbon farming. The simplest form is to generate an overall baseline carbon footprint of your business.

This allows you to show how much carbon you are storing or emitting. Your results can then be used to focus on areas to reduce your footprint, and once your footprint is suitably reduced, be used to market your produce with an associated footprint.

The next stage in carbon farming, and the focus of our service, is to register a project to generate Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCU’s) for sale or trade. This involves registration with the Federal Governments Clean Energy Regulator. There are numerous approved methods for projects, but the main ones that relate to agriculture involve:

  • sequestering carbon in soil
  • reducing emissions from beef cattle herds through management
  • regeneration native forest
  • avoiding clearing of native regrowth.

Once you have worked with your Elders carbon farming specialist to determine eligibility, and decided what type of project you would like to conduct, we will assist you to register your project with the Clean Energy Regulator.

Once your project is registered, you will implement the management changes on farm to increase carbon sequestration/decrease emissions (inline with the project methodology). When subsequent measurements are due, we will support you to complete the relevant reporting that determines if credits to be administered to you.

There are a number of approved methods for registered carbon farming projects, but the most relevant to broadacre agriculture are:

  • The measurement of soil carbon sequestration in agricultural systems method
    Projects must include ‘eligible land’ that has been used for pasture, cropping (including perennial woody horticulture), bare fallow, or any combination of these for the previous 10 years.A land management strategy must be prepared or reviewed by an independent person—advising on what management activities are best suited to the site, including information on risks, monitoring and improvements.
    For full eligibility details see the Clean Energy Regulator website.
  • Beef cattle herd management
    A project using the Beef cattle herd management method can reduce the emissions intensity of beef cattle production by reducing cattle emissions per kilogram of liveweight produced.Herd management projects can reduce emissions by improving cattle productivity, reducing the average age of a herd, reducing the proportion of unproductive animals in the herd or changing the number of animals in each livestock class in the herd.​Australian carbon credit units (ACCUs) are earned when emissions from the herd, as a result of the project, are lower than they would have been had the project not been conducted.
    For full eligibility details see the Clean Energy Regulator website.
  • Vegetation methods
    Vegetation ​projects generate abatement by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it as carbon in plants as they grow.Examples of vegetation activities could include: reforestation, revegetation, or​ protecting native forest or vegetation that is at imminent risk of clearing.
    For full eligibility details refer to the Clean Energy Regulator website.

The Elders carbon farming service is based on a fee for service model for all fees associated with developing the project for registration, baseline measurements and support during reporting to generate credits. The exact cost will vary with the scale of the project, the methodology and the frequency of measurement and application for credits.

Following the initial meeting to determine eligibility of your enterprise, we will provide a detailed quote tailored to your enterprise.

We differ from other providers in that we do not take a proportion of the credits as payment for delivering our service. Although this means upfront cost prior to generating credits, it does mean all of the credits are yours to do with what you wish. We believe as the carbon market develops and prices increase, this puts you in a favourable position as you are not having to forfeit credits for the life of the project.

Financial gains from carbon farming are dependent on the scale of the project, the chosen method, and factors such as soil type and climatic conditions. In addition, the success of the project is dependent on consistent application of the management changes required to change carbon sequestration or reduction. We will work with you to implement change and maintain it for the life of the project

There are tremendous opportunities for carbon farming to boost your farms income through the value of credits generated. Not to be overlooked though are the additional production benefits that come from increasing soil carbon (increased soil structure, water holding capacity and plant growth) or reduced emissions from a herd of cattle (improved reproductive performance, higher growth rates).

Given that soil carbon can cycle through the environment, and be released just as easily as stored, sequestration is not regarded as permanent until it has been maintained for 100 years. As a result, registered projects have a permanence period or 25 or 100 years assigned to them.

The permanence period is nominated at the start of the project and cannot be changed. Accounting of sequestration for projects under a 25 year permanence period is adjusted to reflect what would be expected over 100 years.

The main natural disaster risks to a carbon farming project are fire and drought. Both have the potential to deplete carbon reserves and slow the rate of sequestration.

Projects are registered with a carbon maintenance obligation that outlines the baseline maintenance level to be kept throughout the project. Major incident must be reported to the Clean Energy Regulator, so note is made during the subsequent measurements. In the event of a major incident and a considerable reduction in carbon there may be the need to relinquish some of the credits generated.

Soil carbon sequestration and vegetation methods are registered against the lands title and the current owner. As such there is potential to transfer the project to the new owner upon sale of the property.

Registering a carbon farming project has the potential to value add to your property.

The Elders carbon farming service is underpinned by over 180 years of experience servicing Australian Agriculture.

We have an extensive network of agronomy and livestock production staff who are able to provide the technical advice required to get you started. With background support from the Elders carbon farming team, we aim to make the whole process of registration seamless.

The Elders carbon farming service aims to leave you in the best possible position with full ownership of all credits generated. By charging fees for consultation, baselining and registration up front as a fee for service, we do not take a share of the credits as payment.

Are you interested in Elders Carbon Farming service? Lodge and enquiry and one of our carbon farming specialists will get back to you.

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