Monaro Farmer Seeks Compensation for Carbon Sink

In the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney on Thursday 20th December 2007, the Court rejected the Commonwealth’s application to strike out a Statement of Claim entered into the Court by Monaro District farmer Mr Peter Spencer.

Mr Spencer has claimed that Intergovernmental Agreements between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories, along with the International Treaty the Kyoto Protocol that was signed in April 1998 that set Greenhouse Emissions Targets that Australia have to meet by 2012, bind both the Commonwealth and State together.

The Carbon Sink developed on his property by the State banning Land Clearing has expropriated Mr Spencers property and prohibited the lawful use of his land for Agricultural purpose and no payments for sequestration and storing Carbon has been negotiated, this acquisition was not on “Just Terms” as the Commonwealth Constitution provides for just compensation for the acquisition of property.

Counsel representing Mr Spencer in proceedings, Mr Peter E King said after the hearing, “This is the first occasion in Australia’s legal history that it has been found there was an “arguable case” against the Commonwealth on behalf of farming interests that the Kyoto Protocol may give rise to Property Rights”.

Mr Spencer said “I am delighted that my case will be heard and it vindicates my beliefs, farmers have as much right as coal – miners to recognition under the Climate Change Convention”.

** This is the text of a media release from The Commonwealth Property Protection Association made on the 21 December 2007.

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16 Responses to Monaro Farmer Seeks Compensation for Carbon Sink

  1. Aaron Edmonds December 28, 2007 at 8:36 pm #

    If farmers had to pay for their carbon emissions they would soon go out of business. Simple creatures just don’t understand that agriculture is now the second largest consumer of energy globally.

  2. oliveoyl December 28, 2007 at 8:42 pm #

    If consumers had to pay farmers for emissions generated on their behalf consumers would be wondering why did they do this.

  3. Jennifer M December 28, 2007 at 9:24 pm #

    I suspect Mr Spencer could manage his property such that there was some carbon sequestration with timber harvesting and pasture production, and also livestock/food production with some emissions.
    Given Mr Spencer has been forced to reserve land for carbon sequestration putting him out of business so Australia is more-or-less on-track to meet its Kyoto Protocol target – shouldn’t he get some credit or compensation?

  4. Woody December 29, 2007 at 3:24 am #

    It seems that most of the people favoring big government takeovers to fight “climate change” do not recognize private property rights.

  5. Schiller Thurkettle December 29, 2007 at 9:03 am #

    If there were an honest exchange for carbon credits, farmers could get rich growing weeds.

    Which the ‘biodiversity’ advocates have been urging for years.

    Paying farmers to lock up carbon in weeds would also help achieve another Green aim, and that is to drastically reduce the population of the world through starvation, malnutrition, and the diseases which accompany these evils.

  6. bazza December 29, 2007 at 9:36 pm #

    Jen, Do you have any evidence to support your suspicion that Mr Spencer could be a net sequester or even a gentle emitter at an equitable sustainable level, thinking globally now.? He needs lots of fuel and fertiliser to be economically sustainable – hardly carbon neutral, not to mention the methane. A wise judge would also probably factor in a probability that carbon is really the problem. If you were an expert witness what probability would you put on that? But nevertheless I do agree that land clearing was a convenient sacrifice , but not sure about compo. Would you subsidise (to mitigate) or penalise ( to punish)a farmer causing erosion and damaging downstream ecosystems?

  7. Aaron Edmonds December 30, 2007 at 12:11 am #

    Jen if he is going out of business it is likely because he is losing money on the production system he has implemented on what land he does have cleared, not the perceived opportunity cost of being unable to farm the uncleared acres. So why should he be allowed to clear more land so he can make an even bigger loss. The problem is unresiliant (high input) production systems the majority of farmers try to enforce on the land. You can’t argue with mother nature.

    My experience with farming and farmers Jen is that very few are able to sequester carbon and co-produce food and even fewer can produce anything without using copious quantities of fossil fuel derived inputs.

    There’s a big shock headed for a farm near you and the theme goes something like this. 1929 style hyperinflation across the entire input cost base. Glyphosate has tripled in the last 6 months. DAP fertilizer has doubled since October. Urea has doubled since last October. Oil price doubled this year. Cost of essential infrastructure running double digit. I anticipate all the major herbicide, pesticide and fungicide groups to double this year in price.

    So regardless of whether you believe in AGM or endless supplies of oil, the capacity constraints of the real world are coming to bear on our food production systems and the consumer will be at the cliff face of the pain.

    I’m not against clearing but I am against clearing to expand the area of unrealistic production aspirations.

  8. Jennifer M December 30, 2007 at 6:14 pm #

    I understand that Peter Spencer allowed open country to grow trees – and then he was caught by new vegetation management legislation.
    I suspect he doesn’t use a lot of fertilizer – but may be wrong.
    I wonder whether food production/agriculture is generally a net consumer or emitter of carbon. If it is a net emitter should we close it down?

  9. Aaron Edmonds December 31, 2007 at 9:57 am #

    The current fossil fuel dependent production systems are definately net emmitters. If Peter doesn’t use a lot of fertilizer then its a choice he makes but agricultural output in conventional system is directly porportional to input use given adequate rainfall.

    Should we close conventional farming systems down? No it has to be a gradual but meaningful shift. We need to understand that if we remain in the hydrocarbon paradigm the cost base will continue to expode and ultimately shortages of key inputs will occur as oil suppliers struggle to meet demand.

    Should we adapt while there is a capacity to? Absolutely … or ‘capacity constraints’ will ultimately likely ‘close it down’ for us.

  10. Bill January 1, 2008 at 6:04 pm #

    If farmers did go out of business because of their carbon emissions, what would people like Aaron eat? Perhaps Aaron’s mighty mind hasn’t got that far just yet?

    Truth is that if input prices keep rising – and they are unlikely to do so at recent rates – then consumers like Aaron will just have to pay more.

    That’s how commerce actually works.

  11. Aaron Edmonds January 1, 2008 at 7:29 pm #

    Consumers like Aaron may also be smart enough to be farmers so trust me Bill my mind will always be ahead of yours πŸ˜‰ Best year ever on our grain farm … by double. No complaints my end with rising food prices.

    Herbicides (except glyphosate which is up 150% for the last 6 months) are an asset class that have yet to hyperinflate. In a commodity boom EVERY commodity (raw and manufactured) will forge new highs. I anticipate 2008 will see major upward movements in herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. Thats why I have two years supply priced and stored in the shed. And in respect to fertilizers … don’t expect any of the big four fertilizer (N, P, K and S) elements to capitulate anytime soon.

    The ability to PRODUCE FOOD without fossil fuel inputs is only enabled by a few crops. One of them is sandalwood for their oil rich nuts. I have that future covered too Bill –

    That’s how I work.

  12. Bill January 2, 2008 at 9:43 pm #

    Glad to hear the farm is doing so well,I imagined there had been a fairly poor wheat season in WA.

    But why do you describe sandalwood as a food crop? I suppose you can eat the nuts but isnt it all used in perfume? Apart from that why is sandalwood any less fossil fuel dependent than any other perennial crop – blue gum, softwood, olives, fruit trees or grapes. Like sandalwood all of the above only have to be planted once.

    In any case you dont seem to address my point – which is that if wheat (or any other agricultural commodity) experiences rising costs – then ultimately consumers just have to pay more.

  13. Aaron Edmonds January 3, 2008 at 9:10 am #

    Legume base removes the need for nitrogen. In a wheat crop for example a dryland farmer will apply around 150kg of urea equivalent per hectare. 150kg of urea is 150L of oil (per hectare) in the energy equivalent required to manufacture that nitrogen.

    Once established grazing is possible and that removes the need for petrochemical based herbicides.

    Mechanical harvesting possible with macadamia harvesters.

    Low cost production is the future of food because after all the oil is going to be spread thinner and more expensively in the future.

    None of the crops you mention produce a STAPLE food – the ones you can’t live without ie grains and oilseeds.

  14. Aaron Edmonds January 3, 2008 at 9:12 am #

    Consumers will and are paying more. All the more reason to increase productive capacity where rising costs are detracting from it.

  15. Ian Mott January 4, 2008 at 1:34 am #

    Aaron, you are completely ignorant of Peter Spencers situation but launched into your standard rave. Do you have an encore?

    Like many farms in Australia, Peter’s place has been subject to substantial thickenning of native vegetation. And like most farmers, he conducted his pasture maintenance activities on a long, 15 year or more, rotation. A shorter rotation was less economic. But this has meant that this excessive native tree growth is detectable by satellite scan when it is eventually removed.

    The departmental boofheads then decided to respond to this long established, but newly “discovered” practice by agreeing to the green movement’s request to define “broadscale clearing” as the destroying of a single tree. And they also failed to include any historical considerations in the test of what needed to be “protected”, despite the fact that each State land management authority has detailed aerial photography of all vegetation changes since 1953 with some going back to the 1930s.

    And to top it all off, along came the “Climate Lards” who decided that any trees growing before 1990 were “old growth” and any carbon absorbed by trees that were mere seedlings before that date should not only fail to get a carbon credit but should also be subject to a carbon quota, and possibly a carbon tax, even if the carbon remains intact after it is converted to a fence post.

  16. Aaron Edmonds January 4, 2008 at 3:09 pm #

    Yes I am completely ignorant of his situation. Frankly I think there are much more important things to talk about. Like the massive wave of costs headed for a farm near you. If in doubt check out the value gains of Incitec Pivot (fertilizer) and Nufarm (herbicides) shares all of which I am loaded up with. Hyperinflation in inputs steaming at all Australian farmers and then consumers. Unlike you I appreciate there are problems ahead in resource availability namely energy and hence I understand price rises are one thing but shortages are a completely different world to the one we know.

    You want to get all warm and fuzzy about compensation rights of farmers, maybe you should take a look at the $100,000 each and every wheat grower has been forced to forgo as the AWB used government sanctioned powers to acquire export wheat when it was insolvent. I could have planted a lot of sandalwood with an extra $100,000 …

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