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Voice of Real Australia: Carbon could give credit to farming families

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INNOVATIVE FARMING: Wilmot Cattle Co's Stuart Austin, wife Trisha Cowley, with children Harry, 5, and Poppy, 1. The family recently sold carbon credits, stored in their soil, to international company Microsoft.

INNOVATIVE FARMING: Wilmot Cattle Co's Stuart Austin, wife Trisha Cowley, with children Harry, 5, and Poppy, 1. The family recently sold carbon credits, stored in their soil, to international company Microsoft.

Carbon farming is the newest trend in agriculture - again.

One of my first jobs as a journalist - back in 2007 - was attending a carbon farming conference.

At the time it was all pretty new, not just to me but to everyone, so I felt like quite a few people walked away just as confused as they'd started the day.

In the past few years, there have been a few murmurs here and there on the concept but in the past few months, suddenly the subject seems to be everywhere - and I don't think it's just confirmation bias.

It is a topic that has some appeal.

While the rest of the world has been debating climate change over and over again, a fairly solid carbon farming industry has popped up in the past few years.

"It's gone from a possibility to something quite well developed and a highly-regulated industry - contrary to what people might think," says Select Carbon CEO Dean Revel.

And while in the past, the carbon market had primarily served governments, more and more private companies have been looking to buy carbon, either because of legislative requirements or just something their shareholders and clients want to see.

At the start of the year, a NSW cattle farming family became the first to enter the global market, selling about half a million dollars in carbon credits to Microsoft.

While there has been much negative focus on livestock and its role in emitting methane, there's a lot of research going into this field, in part because a cow that produces less methane is also one that is more efficient, so it's a double benefit. There is also some great work emerging on seaweed additives and their ability to reduce cattle methane emissions.

The reality is, carbon is not just stored in trees but also soils and pastures, like the ones found on livestock grazing properties.

POTENTIAL EXPLORED: A report, held by Outback Communities Authority chair Bill McIntosh and Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister David Basham, shows there are millions of dollars of potential for carbon farming in the top half of SA.

POTENTIAL EXPLORED: A report, held by Outback Communities Authority chair Bill McIntosh and Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister David Basham, shows there are millions of dollars of potential for carbon farming in the top half of SA.

This goes to show what potential there could be for a growing carbon market. Carbon in soil is actually a big aid in fertility, so storing carbon benefits farmers and the environment. Another win-win!

But the economics also stack up, with one conservative estimate suggesting that for the South Australian pastoral areas, it could bring an extra $28 million to $84m a year. That's a heck of a bonus for regional and remote communities.

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