Carbon farming

22 May 2012 4:35 PM - Government rejects rice industry's engagement

The Rice Research and Development Committee today expressed disappointment that the rice industry’s interest in participating in carbon farming had been rejected, following the government’s decision not to fund research into greenhouse gas emissions from growing rice, under its Carbon Farming Futures Program.

Chair of the committee Ian Mason said that this decision had effectively ruled out any opportunity for the industry to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, predominantly methane, under the Carbon Farming Initiative.

“We currently know very little about the greenhouse gases emitted from growing rice in Australia, such as how much methane growing rice in NSW Riverina conditions produces, what alternative farming practices can reduce these emissions, and what trade-offs with other greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide occur when using these alternative practices.”

“The project that was proposed would have quantified the industry’s baseline emissions to fill a significant gap in our national greenhouse gas inventory, as well as quantifying the abatement potential from altering irrigation and stubble management practices. Without this information, the door is closed on Australian rice growers participating in the Carbon Farming Initiative through a rice-based system methodology, or Australia claiming methane reductions by rice growers against its emission reduction targets.”

Mr Mason said that the rice industry would like to contribute to Australia’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but requires the government to invest in research to understand the complex scientific processes involved.

“We don’t well understand the drivers for methane emissions from rice or the full potential for Australian growers to abate their emissions by altering management practices. On the basis of overseas data and some preliminary local modeling of emissions, there appears to be an opportunity to prevent the release of substantial quantities of methane into the atmosphere. But unlike other farming situations, reducing methane emissions from rice does not improve farm productivity, so there is virtually no economic value in doing the research ourselves.”

“Despite this, our industry had offered to contribute $300,000 to this public good research if the government supported the project. However, the message from government is that our efforts are not required.”

Mr Mason said that the industry accepts that the government’s priorities lie elsewhere, but would not accept a future greenhouse emission liability based on overseas data.

“If the government does not want our assistance with abatement, or doesn’t properly understand the centrality of rice in irrigated agriculture in the Riverina, we can live with that. But if agriculture is one day directly included in an emissions trading scheme, we won’t wear being liable for a quantity of emissions based on irrelevant overseas data, with no management options recognised to limit our liability”, Mr Mason said.

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