Agriculture Minister David Littleproud’s attack on plantation and farm forestry yesterday, in which he ruled out changes to the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) regulations to allow plantations and farm forestry to fully participate, will come as a great disappointment to the 120,000 people who work across the full value chain of forest industries in rural and regional Australia, Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) CEO, Mr Ross Hampton, said.
“In an interview with the ABC North Coast, Minister Littleproud completely misrepresented our industry’s ambition, which is to reverse the decline in Australia’s plantation estate and stimulate modest growth of our sustainable timber resource, especially via farm forestry, and help tackle climate change by allowing forestry to store carbon and access the Coalition Government’s ERF,” Mr Hampton said.
“The Government is well aware that, as a nation, we have a serious shortage of production trees to supply our growing population with the sustainable timber needed for housing and other uses. We are already importing about $2 billion worth of timber products every year. We congratulated Minister Littleproud last year when he released the Government’s National Forest Industries Plan which committed to the planting of 1 billion new trees. We were delighted the Plan committed to review the regulatory barriers ‘to enable forestry to fully participate in the ERF’.
“Following advice from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Richard Colbeck, wrote to Environment Minister Melissa Price urging her to remove the artificial rainfall barriers in the ERF, included in the original design of the scheme by the Gillard Labor Government, which currently exclude plantation and farm forestry.
“It is therefore both perplexing and enormously disappointing that the Minister has made these statements which not only rule out the needed changes but also seeks to divide forestry and farming,” said Mr Hampton.
Mr Hampton said, “AFPA has been working closely with the National Farmers Federation, which has included this policy position in its election campaign asks, as we have been determined to strike the right balance in this next growth phase to ensure that we avoid some of the issues which arose in the rollout of previous schemes. We are determined that farmers will be able to access carbon payments which will encourage them to allocate a modest proportion of their land to trees, gaining a win, win, win outcome. They would be paid carbon credits, see an uplift in their primary production and finally be paid for their renewable timber products when the trees are fully grown.
“It is also important to point out that as Agriculture Minister, Minister Littleproud has a veto power over any plantation or farm forestry project which he deems should not go ahead. There is no suggestion this should change. What’s more there are already some fifteen agricultural Carbon Farming Initiative methodologies which farmers can access to participate in the carbon markets and not one of these has an artificial barrier like that which confronts forestry and farm forestry. It’s not a level playing field.
“AFPA will be publishing a scorecard of the major political parties based on our 10 key policy asks before polling day. Labor has committed to removing the water barriers for carbon payments, which is what industry so desperately needs. The Coalition now has a very short period of time to correct its position on this vital issue if it wants the support of forest industry workers,” Mr Hampton concluded.