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Garnaut acknowledges key issues for Australian farmers

22 February 2008

SUPPORTING calls by Australian farmers, the Interim Garnaut Report, released yesterday, successfully addresses some key concerns raised by agriculture, including the need for a global response to climate change.

“Reinforcing what we have said time and time again, the Interim Report acknowledges that by doing nothing, Australia has a lot to lose from climate change,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) CEO, Ben Fargher said.

“We have the opportunity now to play a key role in driving a global solution, with Australian farmers ready and able to play their part.

“While it is crucial to get the policy settings right at home, we agree with the Interim Report that ultimately, it is what happens globally that will make all the difference. This is especially true for Australian agriculture which is intrinsically exposed to the global marketplace.

“Professor Garnaut correctly states that Australian agriculture emits less than other developed countries. Therefore it is in the best interests of the global community to see more of the world’s agricultural production needs met from countries like Australia, where modern farmers are implementing cutting edge technologies and greenhouse efficient farm systems.

“The introduction of poor or ill-informed domestic policies that result in production moving off-shore in sectors where Australia is both energy and economically efficient, like agriculture, would be disastrous and would only add to the overall global carbon footprint.

“Therefore, as the Interim Report suggests, urgent policy responses are needed now to provide adaptation opportunities and mitigate emissions. It is crucial however, that Government policy is designed appropriately, taking into account the unique set of factors affecting agriculture.

“A farm system is not structured like a power plant, or any other sector, and must be treated appropriately. The net carbon profile of a farm must take into account the complete life-cycle of the vast range of farm systems, each one different to the next.

“It is absolutely vital that targeted research and development that is relevant at local and on-farm levels is undertaken, and the Government provides commercially viable tools and mechanisms for farmers that help them to make a contribution in the global mitigation effort.

“Incentives must also be put in place as early as possible to realise the vital sequestration potential of agriculture.

“As we made clear in our initial submission to the Garnaut Review, the NFF recognises that an appropriately designed Australian Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) can be the most economically efficient mechanism for reducing the nation’s emissions.

“However, the costs of an ETS and other domestic policy responses to mitigate greenhouse gases must be distributed fairly across the Australian community. This principle must apply to sectors and communities regardless of whether they are covered under the ETS.

“This is crucial for agriculture which currently faces practical limitations for coverage in an ETS in areas such as measurability and transaction costs. Farmers, as price takers in the marketplace, are extremely vulnerable to increasing costs that may result from the implementation of an ETS – even as an uncovered sector.

“Using Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics data, approximately a third of total broad acre farming input costs are energy dependant. This includes direct costs such as fuel and electricity, as well as other energy dependent farm costs such as freight, fertilizers and crop contracting. This figure increases to a substantial 45% of input costs for cropping operations.

“Australian farmers are willing and able to play their part, however we need strong and sensible policies that will enable us to do so.

“Meanwhile we will continue to provide competitively priced, high quality and environmentally sustainable food and fibre – not only for Australian consumers but for millions of people across the globe.”

The NFF looks to the Final Garnaut Report to offer appropriate solutions and additional transitory policy mechanisms that ensures Australian agriculture can play an equitable role in the climate change challenge.

[ENDS]

The NFF’s Garnaut Report submission is available online at: Garnaut Report

Media Enquiries: Emma Keogh on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250

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