Govt to make ‘national statement on climate change’ in ag

Eric Barker, March 20, 2023

Federal agriculture minister Murray Watt

FEDERAL agriculture minister Murray Watt says the government is hoping to bring industry, states and territories together in forming a broad strategy for managing the impacts of climate change on agriculture.

The minister was talking at the launch of a new Farmers for Climate Action report, which called for a series of measures to help manage climate change, including a national strategy similar to Mr Watt’s announcement.

FCA surveyed 600 farmers and held a series of industry roundtables at the end of 2022 to gain an understanding of the issues they are having.

“The overwhelming finding from our engagement is that farmers want to take action to reduce on-farm emissions but don’t know where to turn,” the report says.

“The sector is looking to the leadership of the Federal Government to ensure opportunities aren’t missed and farmers are not left behind.”

In his presentation to the group, Mr Watt said the government was keen to bring the industry and state governments together to formulate a collective plan to help manage the impact of climate change.

“I want to build on the steps we have taken in our first year of office and bring the sustainability focus to the entire agriculture supply chain and act on some of the long-term opportunities,”

“Federal, state and territory agriculture ministers resolved to make agricultural sustainability to be one of our shared national priorities at our first meeting after the election,” he said.

“These ministers, including myself, have agreed to develop a national statement on climate change in agriculture. This national statement will present a broad and unified vision for the agricultural sector and will demonstrate that all levels of government are committed to supporting the sector to sustainably manage the impacts of climate change.”

Maintaining key export markets

While details on the national statement are limited at this stage, Mr Watt said it will be important for Australia to maintain some of its key export markets. He referenced his recent trip the United Kingdom and Europe, where he was discussing trade and sustainability.

“The one consistent message I heard from our trading partners was that Australia needs to create food in an even more sustainable way,” he said.

“Farmers and the wider industry are already taking steps to lift their sustainability credentials, we should celebrate that Australia’s agriculture sector has led the way in reducing emissions since 1990 – the red meat industry has a target to become carbon neutral by 2030.

“Now Australia finally has a government that is matching industry’s ambition.”

More extension work needed

As part of its report, FCA has been calling for more investment into extension to help producers work out often-complicated world of carbon markets.

“Extension officers could be housed at trusted bodies, such as NRM Regions, to help farmers adapt to a changing climate and also benefit from the opportunities it brings,” chief executive officer Dr Fiona Davis said.

“They could be funded by the Federal Government and help farmers find straightforward information on carbon markets, renewable energy and storage, and help them access incentives for things like on-farm batteries.”

Minister Watt said the government was working on a program to help producers manage for climate change and carbon markets.

“FCA surveys have told us that most farmers want to take action on climate change by trialling new technologies, products and farming practices if it will benefit themselves and the environment,” he said.

“But most farmers haven’t been involved in that type of adaptation and extension. This bridging role between the desire to act and actual on-farm uptake is something governments and industry partners consist with. I am currently in discussions with my ministerial colleagues about how we can do that.”



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