Duxton’s Agri Bits and Pieces – Vol. 378
Posted on: May 8th, 2018

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

This week’s quote is from Vytenis Andriukaitis, a member of the EU Commission in charge of health and food safety. He was commenting on the recent vote in favour of widening the ban on neonicotinoids (a type of pesticide) found to be harmful to bees:

“Bee health remains of paramount importance for me since it concerns biodiversity, food production and the environment.”

The reaction to the vote has been mixed as industry groups suggest the move could impact crop outputs especially for sugar beet and wheat production. Further, pesticide makers are currently awaiting a court ruling on a case brought against the EU in response to an earlier banning of certain pesticides.

MULTI-BILLION-DOLLAR POTENTIAL FOR WESTERN AUSTRALIA’S CARBON FARMING INDUSTRY

“A new carbon farming pilot project across the Southern Rangelands could signal the start of a new multi-billion-dollar industry for Western Australian pastoralists. This week the State Government gave approvals for WA pastoralists to participate in the Commonwealth’s $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) and upcoming reverse auction.

Already established in states such as NSW and Queensland, under the scheme land owners are paid for practices that reduce carbon dioxide emissions, like conserving native vegetation on their land. Landholders can then earn carbon credits for their practices, which they can sell on the carbon market to companies that want to offset their emission costs. [WA’s] Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan said she hoped the 12-month pilot program would be the first step towards creating an accessible carbon farming industry in WA.

“Supporting carbon farming is critical to the Government’s pastoral lands reform process and will help pastoralists to diversify their activities, improve pastoral condition and support regional jobs,” she said.

One of Australia’s largest carbon farming companies Climate Friendly already manages 90 different projects under the ERF in Queensland and NSW. General manager Josh Harris said with carbon prices on an upwards trend and the next carbon auction only weeks away, it was a good time for WA pastoralists to join the $2 billion carbon farming industry.

“The carbon price is $13 per carbon credit roughly at the last auction, and we actually think the trajectory is looking pretty good for higher carbon prices, so the timing for projects in WA is quite good,” he said, “so the potential in WA is a multi-hundred-million-dollar industry once it gets up and running, and thinking into the long term that’s something that’s not going away.

Currently Queensland and NSW are leading the way in the carbon farming market, with around 150 and 200 respectively, receiving more than $800 million in carbon farming credits. Pew Charitable Trusts WA outback manager David Mackenzie said it was a breakthrough for WA pastoralists in the Southern Rangelands, who had been lobbying hard to establish an industry.

However it is believed for carbon farming to reach its full potential in Western Australia, further reforms to land tenure are needed. Under the current legislation, pastoralists like Jason Hastie from Pingandy Station are precluded from participating in the ERF. Last year Mr Hastie delivered a petition to Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan, calling for the State Government to develop a framework that would enable carbon farming across all pastoral leases in WA.

“Under the federal government emissions reduction fund, they do have a 25-year system, [so] with all the pastoral leases being renewed in 2015, there’s already 21 per cent of pastoral leases that cannot participate in this current round of the ERF because our leases simply aren’t long enough,” he said.

“And as the years go by, more and more pastoral stations will not be able to participate in this ERF let alone a wider, more open carbon trading system.”

Mr Hastie said it was critical for the State Government to address land tenure reform and native title issues for the industry to expand.

“We certainly need investment in creating more methods and expanding the methods that are already out there.””

Source: Fowler, Courtney; Stanley, Michelle; de Landgrafft, Tara. ABC News Rural. 20 April 2018.

MEAT IS CRUCIAL TO BALANCED DIET, MICHAEL GOVE TELLS FARMERS

“Meat is a crucial part of a balanced diet, the environment secretary has said, as he told farmers about his “health and harmony” vision for food.

Michael Gove’s new vision for British agriculture post-Brexit envisages farmers playing a critical role in improving public health.

“There is a growing public interest in the impact of our current diet on our health,” he said. Non-communicable diseases such as heart and lung disease, cancer and diabetes accounted for 89% of deaths in the UK in 2014, according to the World Health Organization, he pointed out, and a major driver of that has been our diet: “the wrong fats, sugar, salt and other additives form too large a part of our national diet”.

Improving our national diet is an important job for our farmers, he told the audience: “A balanced diet, rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, beans, pulses and cereals, fresh dairy produce and protein sources such as fresh fish, offal and properly sourced meat is critical to human health and flourishing.”

Asked by the Guardian if, given the known environmental impacts of livestock farming, the government might consider suggesting that people reduce their meat consumption, Gove said: “For health reasons there’s an appropriate level of meat in anyone’s diet which doctors and nutritionists would advise us to consume.”

“It’s not my job to micro-manage what goes into a shopping basket,” he added, “but while I respect the rights of people who might be vegan or vegetarian to make that choice, nevertheless I don’t think anyone should be shy or abashed in drawing attention to the fact that livestock farming contributes to the mixed farming methods that provide a specific set of farming benefits and that mixed farming and meat is part of a balanced diet.”

Gove plans to redesign the farming subsidy system so farmers are paid for environmental services such as improving soils and levels of biodiversity, viewing Brexit as a unique opportunity. He faces an anxious sector with concerns ranging from falling incomes due to cheap food prices and international competition, to environmental issues like declining soil health.”

Source: van der Zee, Bibi. The Guardian. 27 April 2018.

CHART OF THE WEEK

The chart for this week shows Chinese direct foreign investment in agriculture, forestry and fishing between 2003 and 2016. The figures do not account for any investment into secondary processing which the USDA’s Economic Research Service suggests would lead to a significant increase. As China struggles with domestic issues of soil degradation, pollution and resource shortage and an increasing population, the need for food security has driven massive investment into both land and sea rights as well as into large scale, established agribusinesses across the globe.

JOKE OF THE WEEK