You can’t eat trees

Posted on Mon 11/22/2010 by

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Andrew BoltBy Andrew Bolt

Think this through. What will happen to food prices and our exports if we pay farmers to cut back on their crops:

UNDER government plans to test-run a carbon market for the sector, farmers will be able to cash in on measures to reduce carbon pollution.

These will include tree planting and reducing fertiliser use.

UPDATE

To confirm what critics in comments below seek to deny, here are examples of carbon dioxide offset schemes boasting that they are indeed sticking their (non-fruiting) trees on farmland:

Rewards offers carbon sequestration projects for commercial clients, using permanent forest plantations to sequester carbon abatement from the atmosphere through the incorporation of Australian native species on to cleared Western Australian Wheat belt farm land.

And:

Carbon Conscious plants mallee eucalypt trees… Importantly the majority of the plantations are on marginal Australian farmland. We work very closely with Australian farmers to identify tracts of land on their farm that are considered less productive.

As the NSW Farmers Association says:

Carbon plantation tax breaks are alienating agricultural land.

The Australian Banana Growers’ Council warns:

As a major national agricultural industry association, we are fundamentally opposed to providing tax incentives for enterprises that will occupy agricultural land without providing food or fibre for consumption… First, developers of carbon sink forests are provided with massive financial advantage over the farmers who produce our food. Second, the proposed emissions trading scheme (ETS) will allow large polluters to offset their emissions by merely planting more forests, and third, the tree plantation industry itself will execute plans to treble forests acreage within 12 years.

Any one of these proposals alone would have a severe impact on Australian agriculture, however there is no doubt that this combination of factors – and their propensity to leverage each other – will have a devastating effect on the availability of good agricultutral land in Australia over the next decade, and the ability of our farmers to provide agricultural produce at reasonable and sustainable prices.

As the South Australian Advisory Board of Agriculture tried to tell the Rudd Government:

Threats to food security, employment in regional areas, and social ramifications, are high amongst the implications of Australia’s most productive land being locked up to tree plantings for at least 100 years under the ETS. Lack of food production will impose imported foods grown under regimes with far lower safety standards…

Food security is being threatened by encroachment of reforestation onto safe food producing areas. Cashing in on carbon sinks, the resource industry is encouraging the conversion of food producing areas to forests.

Andrew Bolt is a journalist and columnist writing for The Herald Sun in Melbourne Victoria Australia.

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Andrew Bolt’s columns appear in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and Adelaide’s Advertiser. He runs the most-read political blog in Australia and is a regular commentator on Channel 9′s Today show and ABC TV’s Insiders. He will be heard from Monday to Friday at 8am on the breakfast show of new radio station MTR 1377, and his book Still Not Sorry remains very widely read.