Call for a strong policy to save ag from billions in bushfire costs

A report from researchers at the University of Sydney and WWF Australia confirms what farmers already knew: the Black Summer bushfires inflicted huge damage on Australia’s agriculture sector.

The Fire on the Farm report estimates agriculture lost between $4 billion and $5 billion due to the fires, which came at the tail end of a crippling drought during an El Niño weather cycle.

This amount is equal to between 6 and 8% of agricultural Gross Domestic Product and is mostly made up of more than 100,000 livestock deaths costing $2 billion, and damage to farm buildings and fences resulting in lost property value which cost between $2 billion and $3 billion.

Farmers for Climate Action CEO Fiona Davis said Australia’s farmers needed strong climate policy to protect them from the compounding impacts of more frequent and severe weather events, including bushfires.

“We need strong climate policies to safeguard regional Australia’s future,” Dr Davis said.

“Australian agriculture has been leading the way on emissions reduction, and it’s time for the energy and transport sectors to catch up.

“Agriculture is doing all it can, but it can’t do it alone. Meat and Livestock Australia has a net zero 2030 target; the Australian pork industry has a net zero 2025 target, and FCA’s Ernst & Young report found agriculture can easily achieve net zero by 2040 without shrinking the beef herd nor sheep flock.

“We need deep emissions cuts in the energy and transport sector this decade to protect Australian farmers.

“Emissions reduction gives farmers the opportunity to make drought-resistant income from selling carbon credits while we grow jobs in regional Australia. Let’s not allow that opportunity and those jobs to slip through our hands and instead go overseas.” The report’s researchers also noted “forests regrow but do not store the same amount of carbon because recovery is never 100%” and that $1.5 billion in carbon offsets would be required to make up that shortfall.

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