The state government's new proposed Pastoral Act could boost regional economies by up to $84 million a year over the next 25 years while creating additional employment according to a new report released last week.
According to the "SA Pastoral Rangelands: Carbon Potential Report", which was presented at the Carbon Farming Forum in Port Augusta last Thursday, South Australia has missed out on more than 300 carbon farming opportunities.
Only three projects had been registered nationally according to the report, showing a massive opportunity for the state's northern rangelands to generate carbon offsets and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of integrated pastoral enterprises.
Regional Development Minister David Basham said the current legislation was "strangling investment at the cost of the environment".
"The potential for value adding carbon farming with running livestock in South Australia's pastoral lands is vast but almost virtually impossible under the current Pastoral Act," he said.
The report states there are only three projects registered with the Emission Reduction Fund in the South Australian pastoral region, compared to hundreds interstate.
"A core aim of the new Act is sustainable economic resilience for the pastoral sector, including supporting alternative land-uses and diversification opportunities such as carbon farming.
"The report's modelling suggests that by 2030, $28 million to $84 million a year could be earned from carbon farming projects in the SA rangelands, providing significant income diversification.
"To achieve these results, pastoralists would need to commit to maintain the carbon store for a 100 year 'permanence period', which is much longer than 42-year maximum pastoral lease terms under current legislation.
"The alternative commitment to maintain carbon for a 25-year permanence period would see pastoralists financially penalised by receiving less carbon credits than the carbon being sequestered."
Outback Communities Authority Chair Bill McIntosh said growing interest and requests for information around carbon farming prompted the authority to host the forum, as well as commission the report and a series of fact sheets.
"The report shows there's some exciting opportunities for pastoralists and I think it strongly presents the case as to why we need to think about carbon farming as part of the integrated pastoral business model in this region,"he said.
"We wanted to use the report, fact sheets and forum as an opportunity to explore all the questions around Human Induced Regeneration.
"It can take several years and significant up-front costs before any profit is returned from carbon farming, so having a long-term plan and a clear understanding of your own business and the wider risks and opportunities is very important."