06 March 2023
Australian farmers are poised to tap into the United Kingdom and European Union export markets worth $72 billion, but it's clear from trade talks that sound environmental practices are expected. These markets expect that our farmers are working towards achieving the UN-backed goal of "zero emissions" by 2050.
The National Farmers Federation has set a net-zero emissions target for the industry by 2050. Grain growers have committed to reaching the target by 2030, and red meat producers have set a similar target for themselves. This demonstrates the industry's laser focus on sustainability and aligns with the EU's requirement of sustainability in trade.
It's worth noting that Australian farmers produce 16% of the country's carbon emissions, compared to transport's 18% and electricity's 33%. While the industry has come a long way with innovation, more is needed to reach the 2050 target. For example, seaweed feed is a promising supplement that can reduce methane for cattle and sheep, but it's still in the early stages of adoption.
Innovation has taken the industry a long way, and the pace of change is not slowing, but more is needed to ensure we can reach the 2050 target and meet the expectations of our trade partners.
Farmers currently need access to clean technologies that will help reduce their emissions. Innovation will play a crucial role in driving the industry's sustainability efforts. However, strong leadership combined with market forces will also be necessary for areas without alternatives, such as diesel-powered farm machinery. Reducing diesel without alternative options risks disrupting the food supply and causing inflation.
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Farmers may also contribute to carbon sequestration by creating carbon offsets and credits from planting trees. The government allows the nation's biggest industrial polluters to offset their greenhouse gas contribution by buying carbon offsets as they ostensibly commit to the net-zero target.
This needs to be balanced in a way that ensures productive farming land is not targeted for the benefit of large corporations, and not locked away from sustainable food production for the future, placing greater pressure on remaining agricultural land to feed and clothe the world.
Importantly, whilst free trade agreements provide significant benefits to the agricultural sector, we need to ensure the risks that come from the opportunities presented by these free trade agreements are managed. In the sustainability space, this means Australian agriculture needs to own its’ own sustainability story through consistent and defensible reporting and monitoring, underpinned by consistent baseline.
Without this, what is sustainable will be defined by the markets, potentially without any consideration of what is sustainable for our production systems compared to other parts of the world.
The TFGA will continue to work to influence the development of these monitoring and reporting frameworks so that they are efficient and effective, providing Tasmania’s farmers the opportunity to invest in their business to continue to improve the sustainability and profitability of their business
As the largest advocacy group in Tasmania and the only one that focuses exclusively on farming and the rural sector, the future of Tasmanian agriculture is our focus.
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