Welcome to the era of the 'extremophiles'!

Monday, February 04, 2013

An 'extremophile' is an organism that can live under extreme environmental conditions that most life forms would be unable to tolerate*. WOW, just like they have now got new 'temperature' colours on maps so we can show temps of over 50 degrees! Who knows what 'adaptation' traits, language and new measurements we may have to come up with! Hold onto your hats!

Question: What is the global warming potential of nitrous oxide ? How do you make money from it? 
Answer: Find out at the first webinar "An Introduction to Carbon Farming and Trading"

Voluntary and Mandatory Markets

The discussion about the 'two markets' is heating up as Australian politics makes it unclear as to wether or not we'll have a mandatory market if the coalition wins (ie they scrap the carbon price). My view is that the Carbon Market is here to stay, and is a great vehicle for farmers to assist in the climate change mitigation. So our focus is on the long term, on making a market of the type that can become part of an enterprise mix for farmers, and be out of the reach of politics!

For a report on the role of the Voluntary Markets, see V Carbon News.

To make sure you are across all these issues, attend our upcoming Seminar "The Two Markets".

Soil Carbon News

Guess what!? There IS an approved Soil Carbon Methodology - Its just not a 'Carbon Farming Initiative' one. 

This one is by the Voluntary Carbon Standard - a Standard APPROVED for use in Australia for projects. So, these guys have solved the issues our scientists and others have been struggling with. ALSO, they are keen to work in Australia. Still early days, but in our unwavering pursuit of unlocking the soil's potential, we will be diligently persuing this as well!

From around the world

Three weeks to go to the first Webinar - Don't forget to register, numbers are limited!

We leave you now with this pearl of wisdom: "Men Argue, Nature Acts" - Voltaire. 

Yours, as ever - humble carbon servant. I can be reached on 02 6374 0329, or email louisa@carbonfarmersofaustralia.com.au.

* Reported in Workman Publishing 2013, and included in Gary Reynolds 'quick tips' newsletter

Look out for Outliers! They prove it!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

We have identified a list of “high performance” soil carbon managers who have demonstrated a potential well beyond the average. These ‘outliers’ present a challenge for the conventional estimation of the potential of Australian soils to sequester carbon. 

If these outliers can do it, it can be done.

The CSIRO’s chief soil carbon scientist Jeff Baldock pointed us in the direction of these outliers. We need a study of high performance individuals and what characteristics they share. We need the equivalent of the Australian Institute of Sport for carbon farmers.

AN outlier is a point that is off the curve. In statistics, an outlier is an observation that is numerically distant from the rest of the data. An outlying observation, or outlier, is one that appears to deviate markedly from other members of the sample in which it occurs. (Grubbs, F. E.: 1969, Procedures for detecting outlying observations in samples. Technometrics 11, 1–21.)

“Outliers… are often indicative either of measurement error or that the population has a heavy-tailed distribution. A frequent cause of outliers is a mixture of two distributions, which may be two distinct sub-populations...”

Those two sub-populations: conventional farmers in the hump of the curve and carbon farmers in the tail. (Have we been measuring in the hump and not in the tail?)

Here we have Jeff Baldock's squiggle of the location of outliers in the 'wide tail' of a normal random distribution curve (on the right hand side) which we believe is where our carbon farmers are hidden.

And below we have Jeff's formal graph where we can see the 'heavy tail' (c.2011 slide presentation).

The people you are about to meet are all highly respected by their peers for their contribution to their industries. But they all do something that modern science says is impossible. They capture and hold carbon in their soils at three-to-eighteen-times the rate that scientists believe possible.

The CSIRO's best soil scientists say the largest increase possible in Australian soils that they have recorded is half a tonne per hectare per year. But David Marsh (left) from Boorowa NSW averaged an increase of more than 3 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year over 10 years. Craig Carter (right) from Willow Tree NSW has added 8 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year over 3 years at his best monitoring sites. David sits on the Board of his local Catchment Management Authority and Craig is a member of the Liverpool Plains Land Management and Sydney University Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources ‘CANEn’ project – Connecting Agriculture, Nutrition and Environment. He was also selected to be featured in former Governor-General Major General Michael Jeffrey's Soils For Life program. (Chairman of Healthy Soils Australia Tom Nicholas is pictured centre)

David Bruer (above) of Temple- Bruer Vineyards at Langhorne Creek (SA) increased average soil carbon levels by 2% in 10 years to 2011 (more than 3 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year ). The project aims to highlight information and tools for managing climate risk on farm. 

Col Seis (above) increased soil carbon by 3 tonnes per hectare per year (from 2% to 4%) on “Winona”, Gulgong, between 1995 and 2005. Between 2008 and 2010 his sequestration rate was close to 9 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year. Col is co-inventor of the practice known as Pasture Cropping.

New England grazier Cam Banks has used cell grazing and a focus on soil health to achieve an increase of 2.6 tonnes of Carbon sequestered/ha/yr between 2007-2011 at “Lakeview” in Uralla NSW (above). Cam is an active member of Landcare.

Martin Royds moved his soil carbon levels at "Jillamatong" near Braidwood NSW from 3% to 7% in 5 years, lifting his tonnage per hectare from an increase of 2 tonnes per year to more than 14 tonnes per year at his best monitor points in that time frame. He was awarded National Carbon Cocky of the Year 2011, sponsored by Ylad Living Soils. Rhonda Daly (seen presenting the award) and her husband Bill are also Carbon Farmers at Young NSW. They have compared a compost mineral blend vs single super, and observed an increase of 0.5% in soil carbon vs 0.07% increase between 2008-2010 - or close to 2.5 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year in a cropping enterprise.

But remember: none of this exists... officially... 

Officially the most soil carbon that can be sequestered in Australian soils is 0.5tonnes/hectare/year. Why is t here a vast gap between the performance predicted by scientific models and the actual performance of many carbon farmers? The farmers' high carbon scores are not considered reliable by scientists because the measurement was not conducted by scientists, according to scientific protocols. These results are described by scientists as 'anecdotal'. But here, in this small sample of farmers, we have a pattern which poses the question: Why?

Could the farmers be fudging the figures? But what motive would a farmer have to skew their carbon scores? No one is offering to pay them for it. No carbon trading scheme pays for past performance. Most of the farmers featured above started measuring their carbon levels 10 years ago, before there was a hint of earning carbon credits.

Also, these farmers have recorded falls in their soil carbon levels as well as increases along the way. Their integrity is not in question.

They may not use the same rigour in their measurement methodology, taking fewer samples than a scientist would take. But is this enough to explain the gap? (Some of the measurement was done by scientists and in all cases the analysis was done at a NATA-accredited laboratory.)

When it comes to 'growing carbon' farmers enjoy an unfair advantage. Each farmer lives inside a live experiment, 24/7, observing how nature responds to various activities. They micromanage their farms, combining techniques and practices, endlessly trialling and making decisions every day. Their experiments are conducted in a single location for application in that location. The farmer is there on the ground every day, absorbing the whole ecological 'event', processing it intuitively, referencing their entire experience with nature, and developing new hypotheses on the run. 

These farmers bring a learning attitude to their work. They read a lot, attend conferences, and most are active members of local natural resource management bodies or groups. 

The farmer is not seeking to answer a single question about an isolated variable in the ecological mix. The farmer wants to learn everything at once. They want to know how to get more and better pasture and crops, better water efficiency, healthier animals and better quality produce. They want more sustainable farming for today and tomorrow when they hand the farm to the next generation. They want more profit, more drought resistance, more production. 

The farmers just want to know what works. They don't have to spend time working out why it work. This can explain the gap in performance: farmers are better carbon farmers because they have a narrower task, more time to spend on it, freedom to change direction when early results indicate.

A formal scientific experiment sets out a methodology for each study which must be strictly observed for the period of the program, usually 3 years . This is because scientists must prove their results to others while farmers only have to prove it to themselves. 

The result of this unfair advantage are the higher soil carbon scores registered by farmers and the refusal by scientists to accept these scores because they are not replicable, as science demands of new facts.

These farmers are "outliers" - not a statistical aberration, but the result of a mixture of two distributions or sub-populations. Each of them have spent the 10,000 hours studying and practicing "required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert - in anything," according to Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers. It is on these grounds that we believe these high performance carbon farmers reveal the true potential of Australian soils.

The Carbon Farming Initiative should focus all resources tagged for soil carbon on the challenge of measurement and set farmers free to sequester as much carbon as they can, independent of what the models say we can. This is the only way that the soil carbon credit can act as the catalyst needed to spark the chain reaction among farmers around the world to activate the massive carbon extractive capacity of the soils and vegetation. 


Soil Carbon Network of Farmers Launched: "Our Science"

Thursday, September 13, 2012
At last someone has pulled together the knowledge Australian farmers have distilled over decades of listening to Nature. Former Governor General Major-General Michael Jeffery launches the Outcomes Australia "Soils For Life" report which features 20 farmers who embody a new approach to managing soil and water. 

They manage soil in ways that increase carbon. At least half of them have been recognised in the Carbon Cocky of the Year Awards at the annual Carbon Farming Conference. Chosen to replicate the Australian landscape, these properties will form a network of demonstration farms, hosting visitors interested in sustainable land management. Typically the properties started from a degraded state with a spiralling financial position which forced the farmer to try a new approach. Each case was different, yet they share a common attitude towards soil health and groundcover and all feature solutions that maximise water efficiency. The Major General believes soil and water should be a national issue. Farmers should get a fair price for their produce, he says. They should be recognised as the primary keepers of the landscape and rewarded for it. (But it is not a Landcare model, he insists.) 

It looks like a soil carbon trading model. "Correct land management can play a huge part in pulling down CO2 from the atmosphere, for which farmers should be rewarded." He favours "direct deals with farmers at set prices". The former Special Forces officer has seen enough human misery caused by conflict over resources and flags the 'coming crisis' in food security as his motivation. He wants the G20 to recognise soil security as a global issue. "Unless we get the paddock right, the rest of the supply chain is a second order issue," he says. The key is the link between soil and water, starting with rainfall management at the place where it falls. Around 2% of water falls on our roads and rooftops. The rest falls on the landscape, 50% of it escaping as runoff or evaporation. If we can slow this process down, we can save hundreds of gigalitres. "And we can fix it by getting soils right," he says. Higher carbon levels can guarantee massive increases in a soil's water holding capacity. The 20 sites have been benchmarked by DAFF and the process has CSIRO endorsement, says the Major-General. The teaching base behind the demo sites will be turned into learning packages to be delivered by existing educational institutions. "But they must teach the true way," he says. 

As part of the grand alliance he hopes to forge around this vision, the Chairman of the Deans of Agriculture and the NFF have been approached. Bankers will be approached. (Banks will eventually start to value farms based on soil health, in the M-G's vision.) He hopes to have the teaching systems up and running within 3 years. It's a big vision. It will require big leadership to get what is essentially fringe knowledge accepted by mainstream organisations who are used to telling farmers what's what rather than listening to and learning from them. (Soils For Life is a project of Outcomes Australia. Michael Jeffery is also Chairman of the Global Foundation.)

Public risk perceptions and responses to climate change

Monday, September 03, 2012
A recently published joint study of Australian and British perceptions and feelings on climate change is very interesting.

Here are the main three - although please read the whole study in the link below.
  • Despite dramatic differences in geographic regions, climate, climate change exposure, and recent histories of extreme weather events, the findings from Australia and Great Britain across most risk perception, belief, and concern domains were remarkably similar.
  • Belief and acceptance of climate change among respondents was very high, with this acceptance including acknowledgment of some level of human causality for the vast majority of respondents.
  • Public concern levels with respect to the threat and perceived impacts of climate change were also very high.

You know what the great thing about this is - not that we have a problem (which was so preventable if we'd just lived within the planets means), but that if we can find the will there is still a great solution.

And it's right beneath our feet - our soils. 
  • We have these huge soil crisis, 
  • We know that we have a huge deficit of carbon in the soils, 
  • We know we can take CO2 out of the air and store the carbon in the soils, 
  • We know as we build carbon in the soils we build resilience to climate change and better soils, 
  • We know we need to give people hope that they can be part of a solution. 
This win/win/win is why we support the soil carbon solution so strongly. Sure, we need to plant more trees, but the soil is a much bigger sink than even the above ground vegetation (and you can't eat trees) 

However, we are not putting the soils, or even other solutions, on the urgency list - in effect disempowering people to make the choices we need to solve the issue.

For all these reasons we will continue to argue that we need a soil carbon methodology very soon. Let us not make predictions about how little ours soils could do; let's resolve to find out how much they could do if we felt that it was imperative to do so. Its a whole different paradigm. We have a big problem we need a big sink - and its right beneath our feet! Lets get going.

Allow everyone to be free to help farmers do the job to save our soils, and help save the planet. 

Click here to read more.

Journey to a Carbon Credit - Making it work for you

Tuesday, August 21, 2012



We are very pleased to announce that The Honourable Greg Hunt MP, Federal Member for Flinders and Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Heritage, has graciously agreed to speak at the dinner. His presentation, "Carbon Farming Initiative - the bipartisan view" will surely be a highlight of the event. 


As we have reported, in order to take part in the Carbon Farming Initiative and earn "carbon credits", you need to follow an approved methodology. The first broadly applicable one is about planting a native forest. So, its time to get out in the paddock and "walk the talk".

We have been active ourselves on farm, dutifully gathering data points on some marginal land we have. We have chosen an area where we will be able to "join" some remnant native trees, of which the big ones stand tall and harbour our birds of prey. But, truth be told, they are few and far between. It will be nice to see many more of them, as well as other species.

We are no genius at GPS, nor the Government's "tools" they have so endearingly worked up for us all, so its hilarious as we navigate through all of this. Soon we will be experts!

Other steps required to put a project in: 
  1. We have our "registered offset entity" application in. 
  2. We are about to find out how much sequestration the Government estimates we"ll have, and we"ll get a "map" of the area. 
  3. Next steps - Application for a "project". More paperwork, but do-able. 
We also have our interim Australian Financial Services Licence which enables us to continue to talk about the Carbon Credits in a trading sense. Watch this space for next installment!


Having spent the last 7 years working to see the eventuality of farmers being paid fairly for the carbon they grow, it is now time to work on our business model - ways we can work together with farmers and groups.

The most widely available method at the moment is the tree planting method - as we wait for the soil carbon and others to come on board. We feel it"s a good way to 'put a toe in the water" and are backing that up by doing it ourselves! 

We will have two levels of involvement:
  1. We will calculate an estimate of the carbon you could sequester in the tree method. 
  2. If you decide you want to put a "project" in, we will offer a fee for service approach where Carbon Farmers of Australia will be the "authorised representative" and manage the paperwork and compliance, but YOU will keep your carbon right - which means when you get a Carbon credit issued you will be able to make the decisions about WHO to sell it to. 
We also happen to have about 35 years marketing experience, so we have plenty of ideas on how to market these. Trust me, if you had an ACCU at the moment, you"d be in big demand. 

More on that next newsletter, but please feel free to contact me if either of these are of interest. We are ready when you are. 


I"ve got to admit that I love conference time! Sure, the stress of making it the "best ever" is always present, but so many great things seem to come out of the wood work! 

Lets talk "innovation" in soil carbon measurement, for instance. Did you see the piece on ABC News the other day? A couple of strong messages here. Things are happening in the measurement of soil carbon - as such, Terry McCosker will bring to the conference the latest data in this new "soil carbon mapping" exercise outlined in the ABC piece. How does it relate to "baselining" our soil carbon?

Not just Terry McCosker is on this job however - Our esteemed colleague Dr Brian Murphy will also be on hand to talk about how he cut through the challenges of measuring soil carbon for the Lachlan Market Based Instrument project - and how this method is now going through the "peer review" system so it can be considered for a "baseline" method as well. I've also invited Dr Jeff Baldock to hear how his work relates to the baselining for soil carbon. Fingers crossed on that one. I have one or two "cards up my sleeve" on this as well. 

If you know of anyone else with an innovation in soil carbon MEASUREMENT, please let me know

Another big point in the article is the wonderful, the amazing, the incredible (drum roll)...  100 year rule. 
Well, lets get this area out in the fresh air shall we? Lets talk about the 100 years!
  • Is it as bad as it sounds? 
  • Are there alternatives? 
We've looked at this contentious part of the CFI very carefully, given that it is one of the real brakes on uptake by farmers. Our understanding is that if you take it to 25 to 35 years, there are at least three consequences:
  1. The credits will not be very saleable overseas. 
  2. You can"t sell them into the "compliance" market here or overseas (the $23/tonne market) due to the Governments commitment to Kyoto. 
  3. The value of a 25 year credit could be quite low. 
But, there are precedents. The Voluntary Carbon Standard is an overseas Standard accepted in our market. They have a 25 year project running in Tasmania at the moment. It's a tree method, but not for planting trees. Rather for not knocking them down!

So, I'm on the track of some speakers who will be able to shed some light on the pros and cons. Perhaps we could have CHOICE for farmers. More than one type of credit; long term and medium term? 

Stay tuned, get your registrations in early and we'll get both sides of the story.

I am now so "tech savvy", and there is always so much happening in this space now, you can keep in touch by following me on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

For all the latest Conference news and to book your places now, please go to www.carbonfarmingconference.com.au. I am, as usual, your humble carbon servant and can always be reached on 02 6374 0329 or at louisa@carbonfarmersofaustralia.com.au.

Breaking the 100 years barrier (25 is better)

Saturday, July 28, 2012
"The Coalition... says it's committed to repealing the carbon tax, but supports the Carbon Farming Initiative and will honour carbon credits earned under the scheme," reported ABC Radio earlier this week. In fact, shadow environment minister Greg Hunt says, in Government, he would look to expand the Initiative. Greg says it's not reasonable to expect farmers to lock up areas of land for carbon sequestration for 100 years in order to earn credits.
"Our view is we will work to make a 25-year approach... It's a view which is almost universal across the sector that a quarter of a century, which is still a long time, is realistic, it allows people to long-term investments, but it's not binding beyond the lifetime of one particular farm."

We believe in the principle of healthy diversity and ‘let the market decide’. We advocate a plurality of offerings: 100 year contract, 25 year contract, 5 year renewable contracts – renewable 4 times. The latter is the most acceptable to farmers, according to our research. However prices are likely to be lower at this end of the continuum.

We have long advocated the logic of a shorter option for the Permanence requirement because:
  • No sane farmer would sign a contract for 100 years with all the uncertainties and penalties associated with soil carbon as it has been presented;
  • Soil Carbon sequestration can play an important interim role in the next 50 years while renewable energy sources grow to baseload capacity, according to prominent scientists
  • The 100 years period is not scientifically significant; it is not the time it takes for a molecule of CO2 to cycle out of the atmosphere. It was selected as a convenient period for comparing the warming potential of different greenhouse gases.
  • 100 years was chosen supposedly to equalise offsets based on sequestration with offsets based on avoided emissions. But the permanence of the avoided combustion of a tonne of coal via the use of renewable energy has been questioned on the grounds that there is no guarantee that the tonne of coal won't be dug up and burnt at a later date.
  • The co-benefits of soil carbon are so many and so beneficial, including reducing the need for chemical inputs and suppressing disease in crops, according to the latest reports.

Removing animals from the land to make way for trees. Carbon Farming gone mad?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Again, the suggestion that to 'carbon farm' we may need to destock land. Somehow, I just don't find it exciting to think that we take grass eating animals out of a time honoured biological system which is dependant on well managed grass eating animals to survive and ensure we have food to eat and avoid desertification. Yes, I can see the temptation - Many large areas are moving towards degradation. It seems simple - take the destructive animals off, solve the issue! 

The problem is, its NOT the animals. Its the management! All farmers who have discovered the benefits of time controlled, or managed grazing - (and there are many, including almost all of those who now win awards in a grazing environment), have discovered the win/win which is available for allowing your pasture to rest, simply by changing the management of your animals. Just so happens that we can also take CO2 out of the air and store it in the soils while we do this!

The Carbon Farming Initiative itself says it aims to put trees in 'marginal land' only. Destocking entire farms surely does not come into this category! Don't forget, under the rules of the CFI - putting in trees is a LONG TERM decision - take care if you think one day you may like to put the animals back on - for instance when your pasture has benefited from the rest it so badly needs. 

Don't get me wrong - Trees are very important, and we intend to put some onto our place using the CFI rules. But not to destock to do so. 

Luckily, as reported a few days ago, one of the great entrepreneurs of the grazing system approach already has done the work for getting what he is calling 'intensive grazing' onto the Positive List. This is incredibly important as we move towards a viable, profitable soil carbon sequestration methodology under the CFI rules. 

This will enable farmers to be paid for storing carbon in the soils , using their animals as the tools they really are. We already have submitted a soil carbon methodology to the CFI process, and we are moving through the system of acceptance as well. It is slow work, being the first. 

So, graziers, take heart - there are a couple of groups working to ensure that your hard work on your flocks and herds will not be lost to a suggestion that you 

Soil carbon sequestration is considered amongst the 'hardest' of the sequestration efforts to measure, monitor etc. However, it was hard to get over the Blue Mountains in the early days, it was hard to get a man on the moon, and its been hard to do a million other things. HARD is not a reason to stop! 

Good media coverage last week - Augers well for future

Monday, June 25, 2012
Last week we were interviewed by 2 sets of journos as they try to gather info on what farmers are doing and 
thinking about with all the new 'carbon era' noise around. This piece aired on PM last Thursday or Friday. We also got a run in the Sustainability Report - click here to read the full article.

Farmers are wondering: Should they, shouldn't they - AND, while the soil carbon sequestration meth seems to take forever, we have only ONE method which broadacre farmers can take part in. The Tree Planting meth. 

So, we've decided to put about 20ha. of a tree planting methodology onto our place - basically to see if we can figure out how hard/easy it is for the ordinary bloke to take part. This is the STATED aim of the CFI - we are meant to be able to take the meth 'off the shelf' and do it on farm. So, lets see. 

I know I can call someone who knows about planting trees, but how do I keep the most of the money in the regions? What local skills will I be able to use? Who holds the know-how to navigate the approval process? Will I need a degree to understand it? Can you do it without $1/2 million from the biodiversity fund round one? 

Most of this carbon market knowledge resides in the cities - which is why we are mounting our NEW Carbon Market Summit. We are bringing all that knowledge about HOW this works - legally, in the accounting sense, for councils and NRM agencies to come and learn - If this is going to happen, lets make the regions strong, let our accountants, lawyers, councils and others be the BEST informed they can be! Lets own the bl.....dy thing! (please note, this is ADDITIONAL to our annual Carbon Farming Conference and Expo - now in its sixth year) 

Rest assured however, we are still the champions of the soil! After all, we owe our existence to the interaction between the sun,  the rain and the soil! And the soil is the one we can 'manage'. It is still exciting for me to realise that farmers have control over the largest carbon sink over which we have control in the world . Rise up, Sir Farmer! 

If anyone else would like to add land into our tree methodology 'project', I'm happy to turn it into a bigger project - not sure how you do that if its over more than one area and one state, but I am sure we can figure it out! I'm talking with a company which does have experience in tree carbon so I won't be going it alone. If you don't have any land, but want to be part of a 'team of discovery' also happy to have you on board. I have a feeling there will be heaps of work to do! 

 And we'll learn all about HOW the heck this works. 


Carbon Farming: “Show Me The Money”

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
“By farmers, for farmers” is our motto. We are farmers. Everything we do and have done in the past 6 years ago to get a market started has been to see farm carbon offsets traded and farmers paid fairly for carbon captured and emissions avoided. Carbon farming is now law. The next task is to make sure farmers will want to get involved. Farmers are saying: “Show Me The Money”. This ‘quick-read report’ tells you about 5 ways we are doing this.

  • The Money Tree – The first CFI activity available to the average farmer is environmental plantings. To make it easier for landholders to come to grips with this opportunity we are working on a guidebook called The Money Tree which translates the ‘meth’* into simple ‘how to’ language. It looks at the CFI planting opportunity as well as other ways to make money from trees on farm. Out soon.

  • Opening the Market – Carbon Farmers of Australia has opened an account on an offsets register (Markit Environmental Registry, a robust global registry to provide transparency and credibility) which enables us to assist landholders to sell their offsets. We have also opened an account with the Carbon Trade Exchange so we can purchase offsets on behalf of organizations wanting to ‘go Carbon Neutral’. And we are applying to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to be registered to provide financial services in emissions units.

  • Soil Carbon Methodology News – Our ‘meth’ has been before the expert panel** and we are working on responding to its requests. We are almost ready to go back to them, once we have nailed the measurement of methane by fitting in with the National Inventory Report methodology (which is designed to report Australia’s National Greenhouse Accounts to the IPCC rather than to measure one farm’s emissions). We are in touch with others working on other soil carbon meths. And we have been told that ‘the Department’ is developing protocols for measurement of soil carbon. (There are at least 3 scientists working on seperate measurement solutions.) It’s the Holy Grail of soil science. There are some fascinating facts about how wool is measured. (See below.***) The most important feature of our meth is the way it uses the wool industry’s solution to a similar problem to ‘defang’ the 100 Year Rule, which we believe removes a major barrier to farmer involvement.

  • Positive List News – For a land management activity (such as bioferts or tillage innovations) to be part of a CFI methodology so farmers can use it to earn offset credits it must first be accepted onto the Positive List. This is a list of activities that the Government has accepted as “Additional” (or capable of producing genuine abatement). If the activity can prove that it is not “common practice” (adopted by less than 5% of farmers in a market or location), it could be accepted for the Positive List (so long as it is not on the Negative List). We are assisting several innovators to prepare their submissions because we believe the more options that farmers have, the more farmers will get involved.

  • Going Carbon Neutral – To help build the market for CFI farm offsets in the voluntary market, we are offering companies wishing to go Carbon Neutral guidance to achieve that goal. Our first client is a bulk haulage company in regional NSW. The process is complex and difficult, but so is everything else to do with the CFI. We have established the baseline, estimated the changes the company will make to reduce emissions, identified the offsets to be purchased to bridge the gap, had a site visit by the verifiers (GHD – one of the world’s leading environmental auditors) and we are responding to their recommendations next week.

  • Don’t Be Put Off – For every negative you might hear about the CFI there is a positive that is not being mentioned. (See an example below.****) The CFI is about innovation which means solutions to problem. The negative voices are not involved in the CFI processes.  The positive are inside the process, making it better.

  • Your Questions – There is a lot to be confused about in the CFI, especially in the “show me the money” issues.. Call 02 6374 0329 or email with your questions.
* A ‘meth’ is a methodology or set of rules a farmer must follow to make money from the CFI.

** The DOIC – Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee. In the period between the return of our meth and our response the Interim DOIC has been replaced by the Permanent DOIC, which has at least three new members who have soil/agricultural expertise, including the Chairman Professor Timothy Reeves an international consultant with expertise in the development and extension of sustainable agricultural productions systems and crop-livestock integration. He is a Professorial Fellow at the Melbourne School of Land and Environment, a director of The Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre, was a Senior Expert for the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and was formerly the Director-General of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre. Professor Lynette Abbott is the Vice Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Science and Professor in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Western Australia. Dr Tony Press was the Director of the Cooperative Research Centre for the Sustainable Development of Australia’s Tropical Savannas.

*** Like carbon in soil, wool is an extremely variable commodity. A 21 micron wool may have a spread of fibres from 11 microns to 37 microns, according to the Australian Wool Testing Authority. “Wool is an extremely variable commodity and wool testing is used to provide an estimate of its properties based on a sample taken from the bulk. Because wool is variable, no two samples are the same.” To overcome the problem buyers would have wit uncertainty, the industry used a statistical device called the Coefficient of Variation of Diameter. It is a measure of the variation in micron measurements along and between individual fibres, relative to the average (or mean) fibre diameter.” The precision of an individual test result is usually expressed in Confidence Limits. Normally, the precision of a test result is defined in terms of 95% Confidence Limits, i.e., the limits on either side of the "true" result within which you can expect 95% of any repeat measurements to lie.

**** You might get the impression from some presentations about the CFI that the odds are you would be paying back offsets you earned because fire wiped out your trees. The facts are these: Between 2001 and 2005, only 2.5% of Australia’s forests were impacted by wildfire each year. The odds are 37 to 1 of a fire event. The majority of wildfires do not kill the trees. The CFI requires that dead trees be replanted. The odds of that happening are far longer than you’d get on a roughie in the first at Randwick next Saturday, not Black Caviar’s @ $1.10, which is the impression given by some presenters. 

Carbon Farming Newsletter: April - May 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012


Your one stop shop to keep up to date and move forward in your carbon farming goals.  

Regional Carbon Market Summit - Leveraging the Carbon Market for regional prosperity

Why is it that all things to do with The Clean Energy Policy, the Land Sector package and the Carbon Farming Initiative are all ‘announced’ in the cities, and discussed at city conferences which cost a fortune to attend? After all, only Landholders can earn carbon credits in the CFI!

This is just not a level playing field, so, we’ve decided to have a Carbon Summit in the Regions on July 25th and 26th! 
We have invited the best knowledge brokers in the business to come to the Regions and help our accountants, solicitors, agribusiness managers, councils, NRM agencies and others to understand HOW to benefit from these new policies, and how to support farmers and landholders who are taking part.

There are Government grants, there are carbon credits to be earned and there are risks and potentials to manage. The inaugural Carbon Market Summit will outline all the issues and answer all questions. It will also hold more extensive training on day two, for those who want to understand what the NEXT STEPS are in getting moving. 

For details, please go to www.regionalcarbonsummit.com.au. This calibre of presenters will not be seen again in the Regions for a very long time.

Breaking news! First round of biodiversity fund announced

Did you have a win? Click here for more details.

Carbon Farming Initiative News

CFI Tree Methodology Approved

So, there is now an approved methodology which has applicability over general farmers/Landholders. The method involves planting of native, bio-diverse trees under the stipulated conditions of the methodology. (The ‘methodology’ is the ‘recipe book’ which describes HOW you must go about things.) We are currently working out how to use their ‘tools’   and we’ll be calling for expressions of interest to hear about how it might work on farm in due course. Stay tuned!

To download the methodology and get used to the ‘Greek’ they are written in click here.

Do you have a new technology or process which has the potential to reduce nitrous oxide from soils, methane from cattle, or sequesters carbon in soil or trees?

If so, you need to apply to go onto the POSITIVE LIST.

The Positive List is for INNOVATORS. And we know there are lots of you! The CFI says that the activity that a Landholder does to earn carbon credits must be ADDITIONAL to what they are doing at the moment. You can apply to be considered additional to business as usual by filling out the Positive List form. A good example is that BIOCHAR is on the list. We are currently assisting some of our best innovators to get their products and processes on this list. Please contact me for assistance in this - even if you are not sure what the heck I’m talking about - it could be important to your business. IT’S A FREE SERVICE!

Click here for more information.

Offset methodologies under consideration

The below is an indication of what will soon happen – LOTS of ways to enter this carbon market. If you can’t see a ‘meth’ you like, wait a bit and one should appear! 

Several carbon offset methodologies are under consideration by the Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee. They are native forest protection, reforestation and afforestation, destruction of methane from piggeries using engineered bio-digesters, management of camels, and three waste-related methodologies.

‘ACCU’ explained  

How are you travelling on understanding the ‘language’ of this new market?  

Well, over the next little while, I’ll be tackling a few explanations for you. While I hope you find them useful, it takes a full day’s training to really understand it to the point of being able to make decisions about your involvement. If you are interested in training, make an enquiry!

So, ACCU - or Australian Carbon Credit Unit - is your ‘currency’. Once you have undertaken a carbon project according to the rules and regulations of the Carbon Farming Initiative, you will apply to be granted a certain number of ACCU’s. These are financial instruments, so serious rules exist around who can and can’t advise you. Once you have ACCU’s, you will be able to sell carbon to polluters, decide when to sell and at what price you want to sell. Sounds great, but it's not that easy to 'earn' them.

The good news is that everything we are hearing at the moment indicates a large demand for them.

NEXT Newsletter - What is a methodology and why do I need one? 

Government information

There is now much more comprehensive information available on the Government site as well. It's worth a look around
They even have a carbon farming handbook now (ours is up to its 4th edition!).

In other news

Revised NCOS released - so what? 

The NCOS (National Carbon Offset Standard) is the Government scheme which allows companies to go carbon neutral. That is to say, they must measure their footprint, reduce it and also purchase carbon credits for any remaining carbon footprint - thereby having a zero footprint. 

Most of the companies will do this voluntarily, for business and personal reasons (see below). The good news for Landholders and Farmers is that they will now be able to buy ACCU’s (Australian Carbon Credit Units - see above) to offset their footprint.

This in effect increases potential demand for your carbon!

Republica Coffee is an Australian organic fair trade business - it is the first food company to be certified carbon neutral by government agency, Low Carbon Australia - these features have helped Republica to generate $4.5 million, win contracts with Jetstar and Virgin, and expand its product range from 1 to 7 with Coles AFR 100412.

More examples next newsletter!  

Rise in N2O emissions due to fertiliser use

A new study has proved definitively that a dramatic rise in atmospheric nitrous oxide in the past 50 years is due to increased fertiliser use. The researchers hope the study will contribute to changes in fertiliser use and agricultural practices to mitigate the release of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere.

Lachlan soil carbon pilot on YouTube

NSW DPI research agronomist Warwick Badgery features in this YouTube clip about the soil carbon pilot project in the Lachlan catchment.

And lastly, some snippets

Tasmanian farmers' push for action on industrial hemp production has won support from all 3 parties in the state - the move is being driven by strong consumer demand for renewable and recyclable fibre products - industrial hemp is already cultivated in Canada (The Mercury 23/03/12).

In an attempt to keep costs down almost one-third of small business owners haven’t taken a holiday since they started business according to a new MYOB report StartUpSmart 170412. Sounds familiar to me! 

Until next time… Go forth and increase carbon storage!    

Any queries, you know where to find us! Email us on louisa@carbonfarmersofaustralia.com.au, contact us through the website or call on 02 6374 0329.