EPA Climate Change Policy and Action Plan - information for the agricultural sector

We are committed to supporting our agricultural licensees to limit climate change impacts which threaten their sector.

The NSW Government recognises that the key to successful climate action is to support the productive use of land and support producers to reduce their emissions, while improving productivity. This approach will deliver the food and fibre we need and a low carbon economy.

What is the NSW Government doing to support the sector?

The NSW Government recognises that a one-size-fits-all approach for the agricultural sector is not feasible. A variety of actions are required to support the sector reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, improve its drought and climatic resilience, and facilitate innovations and new practices to maximise economic opportunities in a low carbon economy.

There are a variety of NSW Government programs in place to provide this support. The EPA and relevant government agencies will be working closely with the primary industry sector to identify further opportunities to support the sector achieve these outcomes.

Primary Industries Programs and Research

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has conducted a four-year $30 million climate change research program to understand the vulnerability of the 29 most important commodities and 14 top biosecurity risks for NSW.

From this work DPI is developing adaptation options for those most at risk. Producers will be able to see practical demonstration of new techniques and systems at field days and at research stations. Most importantly, DPI will help to develop new products that reduce GHG emissions through research and genetics.

DPI has a number of other programs to assist producers including providing on-farm carbon advice, seasonal conditions forecasting to aid decision-making, energy efficiency options to reduce costs, biomass crop trials to provide alternate commodities for changing conditions and markets, and research into life cycle analysis, nitrogen management, new crop varieties, genetics, feed supplements and pastures to reduce GHG emissions.

DPI has already developed a suite of information for producers to help identify abatement opportunities and to participate in carbon markets.

For more information about the opportunities under these programs, visit the DPI Carbon and Emissions webpage or contact your local DPI office and ask to talk to one of our climate specialists about options for your business.

NSW Decarbonisation Innovation Hub

The NSW Government has established a $15 million NSW Decarbonisation Hub based at the University of NSW and overseen by the Office of the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer.

It brings together a consortium of world class researchers, industry and government to fast-track technologies to decarbonise NSW. Included is a specific network focussed on land and primary industries, aimed at co-ordinating and aligning efforts in sustainable primary industry practices.

Primary Industries Productivity and Abatement Program (PIPAP)

PIPAP is designed to assist farmers and other landholders undertake activities that reduce their carbon emissions or increase carbon sequestration via soil health enhancement, livestock and vegetation management.

It also offers farmers the opportunity to generate alternative income streams through carbon markets, providing the framework and support to enable this.

The NSW Government has provided $125 million over 8 years to 2030 to implement this program.

PIPAP will support farmers and land managers by investing directly in abatement projects and capacity building around low carbon farming, natural capital and carbon markets.

In addition, PIPAP will develop market and industry foundations to underpin strong environmental market activity in the land sector in NSW.

More information can be found on the PIPAP High Impact Partnerships webpage.

Sustainable Farming Program

The Sustainable Farming Program will roll out in 2023, and offers government-backed certification for farms implementing sustainable land-based actions, including ‘carbon and nature-positive farming practices.’ Participation in the program will provide financial benefits from the NSW Government and provides further opportunities to unlock financial benefits.

The NSW Government has provided $206 million over 10 years to 2030 to implement this program.

For more information about the opportunities under these programs, visit Environment and Heritage Group's Natural capital programs webpage.

Our Climate Change Policy and Action Plan

We have set out a roadmap to work collaboratively with the sector and NSW Government partners to deliver further actions that support the industries it regulates to build resilience to climate change risks and to reduce their emissions to ensure they are on track to contribute to NSW achieving net zero emissions by 2050. This includes the primary industries sector.

The Climate Change Policy and Action Plan set out policies and actions that complement and build on existing NSW Government climate change policies, strategies and programs, including the ones listed above.

Actions will help farmers to:

  1. understand GHG emissions and climate change risks in the sector, or for their own activities
  2. understand good practices in reducing GHG emissions, and to develop plans to help cost-effectively and sustainably reduce them
  3. remove barriers or gaps to facilitate further decarbonisation and adaptation to climate change risks and impacts
  4. identify and deliver further research and development needs and
  5. identify cost-effective technology and innovations.

We will use a range of support, incentive and regulatory approaches, depending on the needs of the sector.

What is regulation?

We use a fit-for-purpose regulatory approach which includes any one, or a combination of, the following elements: listen, educate, enable, act, influence, require, monitor and enforce.

Image showing our approach to achieve improved outcomes for the environment and human health: listen, educate, enable, act, enforce, monitor, require, influence

We will focus on using education, research, grants, behaviour change programs, best practice guidelines and standards to support the sector.

In time, we may consider if emissions targets and limits are necessary and appropriate, however at this stage the focus is on working with industry to design incentives, best practice guidance and innovation pathways to support the sector.

What types of agricultural operations do we regulate?

Most agricultural operations fall outside our licencing framework and represent a small proportion of the industries we regulate. The types of agricultural activities that we licence include:

  • livestock intensive activities (such as chicken, pig or cattle accommodation)
  • livestock processing activities (such as slaughtering and meat manufacturing)
  • agricultural processing (such as dairies and grape processing)
  • brewing and distilling
  • aquaculture and mariculture
  • certain irrigated agriculture.

We also interact with the agriculture sector on the regulation of pesticides, waste management, and land and water pollution.

What support will we provide for the sector under the Action Plan?

We are committed to supporting and collaborating with the agricultural sector as we implement our policy and action plan, particularly those that hold environment protection licences, or other licences we regulate.

We are establishing an Agricultural Advisory Group to guide the design and implementation of the actions for that sector. The Advisory Group will be co-chaired with the Department of Primary Industries and include agricultural experts and representatives.

The sector is already undertaking important work to decarbonise and build its resilience to climate change. The Advisory Group will further explore and share knowledge of good practices, identify and resolve gaps or barriers to research, development and innovation and connect the sector to incentives and other support where it is required.

The Advisory Group will also inform the development of the following actions.

Supporting guidance

New guidance to help licensees:

  • understand their baseline emissions and understand the potential to reduce these
  • act to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and to adapt and be more resilient to a changing climate (actions 17 and 24)
  • develop climate change mitigation and adaptation plans (action 5b)
  • improve their pollution incident response management plans (action 5d)
Other support

Support will also be provided for agricultural licensees by:

  • surveying all licensees, to understand current actions and plans to reduce emissions, and adapt (actions 5a, 17 and 24)
  • providing transitional arrangements to allow licensees to consider and respond to new information, and to plan for and adjust to new obligations (action 5b)
  • continuing to support agriculture in managing the clean-up from climate-change-induced disasters, such as floods and fires (action 20)
  • developing sector-based initiatives to build climate resilience and protect the environment (action 23)
  • promoting case studies of good sustainability initiatives and providing links to NSW and Australian Government-funded programs that support licensees to innovate, and minimise their emissions or exposure to climate risks (action 19)
  • if requested, providing additional targeted assistance to reduce emissions or exposure to climate risks (action 17 and 24).

Examples of innovation and best practice

We know that the agriculture sector is already making great strides to reduce emissions and are forging ahead of government programs and mandates. Below are some case studies of businesses which exemplify this.

Following the establishment of the Advisory Group, we will begin working with DPI and the sector to better understand the operating environment and any gaps, risks or opportunities. Based on this, we intend to take a staged and systematic approach to implementing actions that are appropriate for the sector, and further incentivise emissions reduction and adaptation.

Case studies

MSM Milling

MSM Milling is an integrated oil seed crushing, oil refining, packaging and stockfeed manufacturing operation in regional NSW.

Their plant uses energy and resource-efficient production practices that have maximised heat recovery and energy efficiency while minimising water usage and waste.

In 2019, a $5.38m biomass-fuelled boiler was commissioned to replace three liquid petroleum gas (LPG) boilers, ensuring most of the heat and steam requirements from the plant now come from renewables rather than greenhouse gasses.

The switch from LPG to biomass is economically beneficial to MSM Milling and will result in net emissions reductions of more than 80,000-tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents during the life of the project, which was supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Australian Pork

Australian Pork has undertaken research to demonstrate the cost effective benefits of utilising piggery waste to produce biogas, a renewable fuel that can be used for powering the piggery and other electricity needs.

The majority of emissions from conventional piggeries come from effluent storage and management. Capturing biogas from effluent pond systems can reduce farm emissions by up to 80% by capturing methane and carbon dioxide emissions, offsetting fossil fuel gas use and generating renewable electricity.

Australian Pork estimates that a 500 sow, farrow-to-finish piggery has the potential to produce enough electricity to power 62 houses for one year and eliminate GHG from traditional fossil fuels used to power piggeries.

Australian Pork has developed a Biogas Code of Practice and fact sheets to support pig producers consider, make and use biogas, including access funding through the Commonwealth Emissions Reduction Fund.

Cool Compost

The EPA’s Cool Compost initiative is an example of an economy-boosting compost initiative that is driving down food waste and greenhouse gas emissions, while also helping farmers and food growers become more sustainable and profitable. This initiative is supported by online videos, podcasts and fact sheets, and demonstrates our support for agriculture by providing information about opportunities for reducing environmental impacts while improving ecosystem services.

EPA-funded Cool Compost projects have significantly increased a commercial food grower’s yield and dramatically improved pastures for cattle, while reducing the potent greenhouse gas, methane, by cutting organic waste to landfill.