Victoria commits to emissions reduction targets in ag

Victoria commits to agricultural emissions reduction

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In 2019, agriculture accounted for 17 per cent of the state's emissions.

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NOTICING THE EFFECTS: Olivia Lawson, Paringa Livestock, Murrindindi, says there is a push from within the industry to address climate change.

NOTICING THE EFFECTS: Olivia Lawson, Paringa Livestock, Murrindindi, says there is a push from within the industry to address climate change.

The Victorian government will invest nearly $20 million towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions within the agriculture industry as part of a statewide strategy to reduce emissions by 50 per cent by 2030.

The Victorian Climate Change Strategy was launched this week and contains climate targets that are more ambitious than what has been set nationally.

Victorian Farmers Federation president Emma Germano said it was important the agriculture industry was seen as contributing positively to climate targets.

"It's important that future policies don't create unnecessary red tape, but we want to be part of an economy that will inevitably be influenced by these targets," Ms Germano said.

In a statement, the state government said the Agriculture Sector Pledge would work in partnership with the industry over the next four years, to create a shared vision about the sector's role in a net-zero emissions economy.

A Victorian Agriculture and Climate Change Statement will be shaped by the Victorian Agriculture and Climate Change Council - an independent advisory council comprised of farmers, industry leaders and climate change experts with experience and connections across agricultural commodities and regional communities.

Funding will include $3.9 million for research into agriculture emissions reduction technologies and practices, including trials to reduce methane on dairy cow farms with feed additives like 3-NOP and seaweed, as well as collaborating on a national scale to enhance research and innovation.

A $15.4 million investment will provide information, tools and services to support adaptation and climate risk management across the agriculture sector so farmers and growers can measure and reduce on-farm emissions.

This will include updating the Victorian Land Use Information System and building an Agriculture Climate Spatial Tool to help farmers make tailored decisions based on different climate scenarios.

Direct grants from a $5 million pool will support up to 250 farmers to assess their climate risk and emissions profile and take action to reduce emissions and adapt to the changing climate.

In a separate move, the government is also supporting farmers through the $15.3 million Victorian Carbon Farming Program, which will provide incentives for landowners to sequester carbon by planting agroforestry and shelterbelt trees on their land.

The investment follows the Agriculture Energy Investment Plan, which has awarded more than 450 grants to farmers.

A further $30 million investment in the program is being rolled out now.

Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said Victoria was positioned to be a leader in low emissions agriculture.

"We have shown it is possible to include this critical sector in an emissions reduction plan, without compromising its growth or profitability," Ms Thomas said.

"Our Agriculture Sector Pledge accelerates the actions needed to achieve our long-term vision for the sector's role in a net-zero emissions economy.

"We will work with industry to shape and implement this important work."

In 2019, agriculture accounted for 17pc of the state's emissions, with the energy sector emitting 70pc and transport 25pc.

Beef farmer Olivia Lawson and her husband Tom operate Paringa Livestock at Murrindindi and have also expanded to run a herd at Clarkes Hill.

Ms Lawson believed it was important for farmers to consider climate change as a risk factor in running their business.

"Farmers really are at the forefront of the impacts in terms of increase of more severe weather events, mega fires rather than just bushfires, floods and storms and wind events with soil erosion," she said.

"Climate change generally hits farmers more than most - and not just their back pocket.

"Long periods of drought also means an impact on mental health."

There was a push from within industry to address climate change, she said, something that was missing in other sectors.

She pointed to work being carried out by Meat & Livestock Australia, which was demonstrating that soil sequestration was not possible without livestock.

"The Australian red meat industry is actually leading the way globally in a really ambitious target of carbon neutral 2030," she said.

"There's a lot of good work going on to address greenhouse gas emission reductions.

"It's interesting that the electricity, energy and transport sectors are actually significantly higher emitters of greenhouse gas emissions than the red meat industry, yet we seem to cop it more than I believe what is fair.

"Because we have set this ambitious target and there's a lot of work going on behind the scenes to get there, I see that our sector is actually on a very strong position to be leaders in that space.

"I feel really confident actually and really proud to be a beef producer and I can honestly say I think beef sustainability is definitely something that's being addressed."

For the past 15 years she had been focusing on regenerative agriculture on her own property and had noticed real improvements to the land.

She said having a holistic system went hand in hand with mitigating against the effects of climate change.

"We're trying to focus on ensuring we have 100pc ground cover 100pc of the time so when we do have dry periods, those pastures seem to bounce back really quickly with the first sign of rain," she said.

"Not that we were high chemical users beforehand but we made a conscious switch to biological farming practices."

The practice had improved the productivity and health of the pastures but she had also noticed improvement in the cattle.

"Once we got our soil better balanced and we have this more resilient system, the cattle are actually more resilient too," she said.

She encouraged producers to engage with the work being carried out by industry.

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