Carbon Farming FAQ

All your carbon farming questions answered.

Carbon Farming FAQs

Welcome to the CFF’s carbon farming FAQ page!  Please note that our responses are written in relation to the Emission Reduction Fund’s methodologies and are only relevant for Australian carbon projects.


If you want to learn more about the ins and outs of Australian carbon farming projects, please register for one of our upcoming educational webinars here.

About the CFF

The CFF was founded to make it simpler and cheaper for Aussie farming businesses to grow profitable carbon crops.

 

We’re breaking new ground with our do-it-yourself Carbon Farming model, where CFF provides resources, guidance, software, and support so landowners feel confident to successfully set up and manage their own carbon crops.

 

We think landowners should come away with 95-100% of the carbon credits from their carbon crops. And as a registered not-for-profit, all profits that come into the organisation go back to help Aussie farmers.

 

You can find out more about our services here.

The CFF is a registered not-for-profit organisation meaning that all profits that come into the organisation go back to help Aussie farmers. We are endorsed as a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) to accept tax-deductible donations in Australia. CFF is also a signatory of the Australian Carbon Industry Code of Conduct.

Under our DIY Carbon Farming model, the CFF is a remote team that provided long-term support and services for the life cycle of a carbon project. We work in the background to make sure the farmer has dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s during their project. We like to think of it as the farmer handles the project side of things, and we handle the compliance side of things.


Our services, in a nutshell, will include:

  • Long term technical support and advice for the life of a project.

  • Software that automates the processes and lays a carbon project out into a simple step-by-step process.

  • Training, guidebooks, templates and learning resources to set the carbon crops up for success.

  • Connection to trusted funding and trading opportunities, via partners.

  • A network of vetted sub-contractors and delivery partners, who can help on-the-ground.

You can learn more about our DIY Carbon Farming Model and our services here.

Sure do! Our agreements give you transparent exit pathways to cancel the project or our services at any time. All we ask is to be paid for services provided to date.

Native tree carbon projects, plantation forestry carbon projects and soil carbon projects under the ERF’s methodologies.

We currently have live carbon projects across Australia. Under our DIY Carbon Farming Model, the CFF connects landholders with local agronomists, foresters or other experts who can provide relevant technical advice, contractor services, and coordination support, specific to their region.

 

CFF’s focus is to be compliance and project facilitation experts – working in the background to make sure that the project follows the rules, minimises risks and rolls out in a logical step-by-step process. This approach means the CFF team isn’t travelling all over the country racking up unnecessary project costs.

Shoot us an email at hello@carbonfarming.org.au or give us a bell at (08) 6835 1140

 

Please note that our office opening hours are Monday to Friday 9am-5pm AWST.

Carbon Farming

Carbon farming is the practice of reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere by storing carbon (CO2e) in the landscape, specifically in vegetation and soil. There is a variety of carbon farming methods that you can integrate into your existing farming operation, such as planting trees and vegetation to store carbon in the landscape or changing property management to store carbon in your soil.

 

In Australia, carbon farming activities that comply with specific vegetation or agricultural-based methodologies are usually registered as projects under ERF. Several other international methodologies can apply to certain projects, but these FAQs apply to Emission Reduction Fund methodologies.

The Emission Reduction Fund (ERF) is a government regulatory scheme that aims to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by providing an incentive for businesses, landowners, state and local governments, community organisations and individuals to adopt new practices and technologies which reduce or remove emissions.

 

It is administered by the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) which is the government body responsible for regulating legislation that will reduce carbon emissions and increase the use of clean energy.

If you choose to undertake a carbon farming project in Australia and meet the ERF eligibility requirements, you can earn Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCU). For every tonne of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) you store in the landscape, you generate a carbon credit. A carbon credit is a financial unit that can be bought, retired, held or sold.

In Australia, ACCUs are issued by the CER to a project proponent when it is verified that carbon has been successfully stored in the landscape. One carbon credit equals one tonne of CO2e stored or avoided by a project.

 

Carbon credits can act as an additional revenue stream for your farming business. As the government, business and industry move towards carbon neutrality, these carbon credits are increasingly more lucrative assets or tradable commodities.

  • They can be sold to the federal government or individuals/companies who are looking to offset their emissions.

  • You can also ‘retire’ credits to offset your own farm emissions if you are looking to become carbon neutral.

  • You can hold some of your credits to insure against reversal risks, or while waiting for the carbon price to reach a value that are you happy to sell at.

You can report on your carbon project as often as every 6 months, or at a minimum of every 5 years. Depending on your operation, you may choose to report every 5 years to reduce your reporting costs or to report more frequently and offset emissions with greater regularity.

 

The CFF can help you optimise your project’s success by reporting at a frequency that is best suited to your operation and land management strategy.

Carbon credits are issued after each reporting period within the carbon project. See the above question regarding reporting periods.

The cost of a carbon project depends on your location and specific context. Factors that could change project costs include:

 

  • Choice of methodology

  • Project size

  • Funding and support opportunities in your location

  • Regional cost variations

  • Your specific project objectives

  • What your capacity is to pursue a more DIY approach


You can check out some profitability scenarios for three different carbon farming scenarios in our Landholder Info Pack.

Our detailed feasibility services provide essential information such as variable cost modelling and bespoke recommendations to understand project viability, enhance returns and support your business case. Touch base with the CFF team to learn more about our feasibility services.

The permanence period is the timeframe in which you need to commit to running a carbon project on your site. It can either be 25 years or 100 years.

Technically if your permanence period is 25 years, there is no further obligation to run the carbon project after this time has passed. However, as a safeguard against the potential for carbon sequestration to ‘reverse’ through events such as vegetation removal or fire, a portion of carbon credits are withheld by the CER in a buffer pool for security. For a 25-year permanence period project, 25% of the carbon credits are retained by the regulator, for a 100-year permanence period only 5% are retained, in acknowledgement of the long commitment to carbon sequestration.

The crediting period is the time frame in which you are issued your carbon credits. The crediting period is always 25 years across all ERF carbon farming methodologies. This means you will receive your entire bank of carbon credits across those 25 years – regardless of whether the permanence period is 25 or 100 years.

Unfortunately, that’s not an available option. When you register your project with the CER you need to stipulate upfront which methodology you will be undertaking, and you need to run with that methodology for the duration of your project.

Native Tree Carbon Projects

A native tree carbon project is when you plant, grow and maintain a permanent forest of native trees or vegetation on land where deforestation occurred over 5 years before the project commences.

 

Native tree carbon projects are typically run under the Emission Reduction Fund’s (ERF) Reforestation by environmental or mallee plantings FullCAM methodology and use the FullCAM (Full Carbon Accounting Model) model to predict carbon yield.

 

For more info on native tree carbon projects check out our educational webinar here.

  • Offset your on-farm emissions and get closer to carbon neutrality.

  • Diversify your on-farm income through the sale of carbon credits, or claiming a price premium on your products.

  • Increase the health of the soil, livestock and other crops.

  • Generate and monetise co-benefits such as the creation of wildlife corridors, improved water retention and reduced erosion.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg… You can find out more about the benefits of a native tree carbon project here.

The CER sets the guidelines that a native tree carbon project needs to follow. The official name for the native tree carbon method under which CFF supports landholders is the ERF’s Reforestation by environmental or mallee plantings FullCAM methodology. You can read more about the methodology here.

To be eligible, you must meet a set of criteria to be eligible to receive carbon credits from your native tree carbon project. Please note some key requirements below and click here for our full eligibility checklist.


Long-Term Rainfall:

If you receive more than 600 millimetres of annual average rainfall in your area, you need to plant a mixture of species of local provenance – termed a “mixed-species environmental planting”.

 

If you receive less than 600mm annual average rainfall, you can either plant a mixed-species environmental planting or mallee eucalypts.

 

Planting Your Trees:

Trees can be planted in a variety of ways – either as seeds or tube stock, in rows or randomly, and in areas that are either linear belts or as blocks.

 

All projects must be planted at a density that will achieve forest cover. According to the ERF, the trees must reach “a height of at least 2 metres with a canopy area that covers at least 20% of the land”.

Scale is your friend! Essentially, fixed costs over more hectares are more feasible. For most projects, we suggest exploring plantings over 100 hectares. However, it’s possible your project could be feasible at a smaller scale.

The minimum recommended size for a project will depend on several factors including:

  • FullCAM modelled carbon yield at the site – the higher the yield, the higher your profits.

  • Your objectives – whether profitability or other concerns are your key driver.

  • Opportunities for you to take a DIY approach and drive cost reductions.

Projects under the ERF’s Reforestation by environmental or mallee plantings FullCAM methodology store carbon in trees as they grow, earning carbon credits over a 25-year crediting period. For every tonne of CO2e stored, you earn one carbon credit.

 

The estimated carbon stock that will be stored in your project’s trees, shrubs and debris across a 25-year crediting period is calculated in advance using a computer modelling tool known as FullCAM. Provided your tree planting is verified to be compliant with the methodology, you will be paid for FullCAM modelled carbon, rather than real-time measurement of carbon sequestration.

FullCAM is a carbon yield calculation tool built from climate, soil and biomass data that has been recorded since the 1970s. This tool gives you a firmer idea of how many tonnes of CO2e (and carbon credits) you can yield from your native tree carbon project. This is then converted into Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e), and in turn into carbon credits. One tonne of CO2e = one carbon credit.


For more information on the FullCAM methodology read our blog here.

We provide a free back-of-envelope analysis of your potential carbon yields using our DIY Carbon tool. This provides you with a clearer picture of the carbon yields and profits you could generate from planting trees on your property.

 

If you want to zoom in on your higher-yielding areas to plan a more profitable planting design, you can order a CFF heatmap. To produce a heatmap, we take the FullCAM carbon measuring capabilities and use them to generate a densely mapped colour scale that shows how many tonnes of CO2e (carbon units) different areas of your farm can generate.

 

Whilst it doesn’t always reflect the reality of what happens on the ground or the farm’s productivity, you can use this colour scale to zero in on the areas across your land that generate the best carbon yields. This provides you with a more high-level understanding of how many carbon credits you will be paid across the lifetime of the project (assuming the methodology requirements are met).

 

You can learn more about heatmaps here.

$150 to set up + 5c per hecatre.

Check out our indicative project timeframe table to understand more about the key deliverables and timeframes for a native tree carbon project. Please note, your project registration must be complete before you start most activities at the site. CFF can help you get your project registered – get in touch to learn more.

Co-benefits are the extra positive economic, environmental, social, or cultural outcomes of a carbon project. Not only can co-benefits benefit your land, farming operation and the wider community, but they can also add extra economic value to a carbon project

 

You can apply for approved co-benefit programs to access funding and likely increase the value of your carbon credits. Alternatively, you can track your project’s broader environmental progress through an environmental accounting framework. Learn more about co-benefits here.

The permanence period is the timeframe in which you need to commit to running a carbon project on your site. It can either be 25 years or 100 years.

Technically if your permanence period is 25 years, there is no further obligation to run the carbon project after this time has passed. However, as a safeguard against the potential for carbon sequestration to ‘reverse’ through events such as vegetation removal or fire, a portion of carbon credits are withheld by the CER in a buffer pool for security. For a 25-year permanence period project, 25% of the carbon credits are retained by the regulator, for a 100-year permanence period only 5% are retained, in acknowledgement of the longer commitment to carbon sequestration.

Your tree growth is checked and verified in 6 months to 5-year reporting cycles and regular audits. This is to ensure you’re managing your project properly and you are paid for credits correctly.


Carbon credits are issued after each relevant reporting period within the carbon project. You can report on your project as often as every 6 months (to be issued your carbon credits more frequently) or stagger it to every 5 years. We usually suggest you report every 5 years to reduce your reporting costs.

Get in touch with the CFF to get a back-of-envelope analysis of your property’s carbon potential. You can find out more about how we can help you to run a native tree carbon project here.

 

If you’re keen to grow your knowledge in the carbon space, download our reforestation guidebook here or check out our Education Hub.

If a carbon farming project doesn’t quite stack up for you now, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to keep your finger on the carbon farming pulse.

Soil Carbon Projects

A soil carbon project is when you change the way you manage your cropping, grazing or perennial woody horticultural system to increase the amount of organic carbon stored in your soil, removing emissions from the atmosphere. This process can also be referred to as soil carbon sequestration.

 

When a soil carbon project is undertaken under the ERF Soil Carbon Method 2021, this removal and the resulting increase in organic carbon matter in your soil can earn you carbon credits.

 

To learn the basics of soil carbon projects, check out our educational webinar here.

Increasing carbon stocks in the soil can have many benefits to your farming practices including:

  • Offset your on-farm emissions and get closer to carbon neutrality.

  • Diversify your on-farm income through the sale of carbon credits, or claiming a price premium on your products.

  • Increase the health of the soil, livestock and other crops.

  • Generate and monetise co-benefits such as the creation of improved water retention and reduced erosion.


And that’s just the tip of the iceberg… You can find out more about the benefits of a soil carbon project here.   

The Clean Energy Regulator (CER) sets the guidelines that a soil carbon project needs to follow. The official name for the soil carbon method under which CFF supports landholders is Estimating soil organic carbon sequestration using measurement and models method 2021.  To make it less of a tongue twister, we usually refer to it Soil Carbon Method 2021. You can read more about the methodology here.

The Emission Reduction Fund’s Soil Carbon Method 2021 sets out a list of requirements, some of which are listed below. You can find a full list here.

  • You need to be able to demonstrate a legal right to run a soil project.

  • The area selected for the project must not have been cleared of forest cover or drained of a wetland within the last 7 years.

  • The project area must have previously been used for pasture, cropping, or bare fallow.

  • You can maintain the soil carbon stocks on your land on site for either 25 or 100 years.

Scale is your friend! Fixed costs over more hectares drive economies of scale. We usually suggest exploring soil carbon projects over 500 hectares.

We recommend you use our feasibility services to assess your project’s eligibility and viability. You’ll also want to seek the advice of your local agronomists and other advisors. If your project stacks up, we will then sign an agreement and move into detailed project planning and design. One of the first major steps on the ground is to determine your ‘baseline’ based on your farm’s operational carbon emissions and how much carbon is already stored in your soil. To determine your baseline, you will need to hire an independent third-party contractor to take soil core samples.


Once you’ve established your baseline and your project has been approved by the CER, you can start undertaking your new management practices to increase the amount of soil carbon stored in your soil. Learn more about baseline soil sampling here.

New land management activities to improve your soil carbon levels include, but are not limited to:

  • Retaining stubble in a harvested crop and letting livestock graze

  • Minimising tillage when sowing a new crop so there is minimal disturbance to the soil

  • Applying nutrients such as lime


The key thing is that you implement at least one new and materially different activity after your project is registered. You can see the full list of new management activities on our blog here.

The costs of a soil carbon project will depend on the size of your project, location, topography, and your ability to take on project coordination in a DIY approach.

To get a clearer picture of costs, CFF can provide you with a tailored feasibility report that models alternative financial scenarios based on reasonable cost and profit assumptions for your project. Get in touch to learn more.

Check out our indicative project timeframe table to understand more about the key deliverables and timeframes for a soil carbon project. Please note, your project registration must be complete before you start most activities at the site. CFF can help you get your project registered – get in touch to learn more.

Within the first five years of implementing your new land management practices, a contractor will test and analyse your soil again to determine if you have been successful in increasing your soil organic carbon (SOC).


You get rewarded for net SOC changes:

 

Net SOC = gains in SOC minus increases in on-farm emissions from the emissions baseline.

 

1 tonne of net soil carbon gained = 3.6 tonnes of Co2e sequestered = 3.6 Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs).

 

Any added farm emissions from within your project area (for example methane from grazing livestock) will be calculated in the baseline – and subsequent reporting rounds – and therefore deducted from the net SOC increase. This figure illustrates how your carbon increase is measured.

 

Does this all sound a bit technical? CFF can help model projected yields for you, have a squiz at an example of our feasibility services for soil carbon projects

The permanence period is the timeframe in which you need to commit to running a carbon project on your site. It can either be 25 years or 100 years.

 

Technically if your permanence period is 25 years, there is no further obligation to run the carbon project after this time has passed. However, as a safeguard against the potential for carbon sequestration to ‘reverse’ through events such as vegetation removal or fire, a portion of carbon credits are withheld by the CER in a buffer pool for security. For a 25-year permanence period project, 25% of the carbon credits are retained by the regulator, for a 100-year permanence period only 5% are retained, in acknowledgement of the longer commitment to carbon sequestration.

To receive your carbon credits, you are required to provide key project information in the form of offset reports at least every 5 years, but no more frequently than 6 monthly. Your carbon credits will be issued at the end of each reporting round where there are measured gains to net SOC. The minimum number of offset reports you are required to submit throughout the 25 years is 5. However, if you wish to receive credits more frequently, you can report more often.

Get in touch with the CFF to discuss our feasibility services.

If you’re keen to grow your knowledge in the soil carbon space, download our soil guidebook here or check out head to our Education Hub. If a carbon farming project doesn’t quite stack up for you now, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to keep your finger on the carbon farming pulse. 

Plantation Forestry Carbon Projects

A plantation project aims to accumulate or sequester carbon as trees are grown and managed within a plantation across a 25-year project crediting period. This includes the carbon stored in trees as well as the debris and harvested wood products.

 

To learn the basics of plantation forestry carbon projects, check out our educational webinar here. 

Scale is your friend! Fixed costs over more hectares drive economies of scale. We usually suggest exploring plantation forestry carbon projects over 200 hectares.

The CER sets the guidelines that a plantation forestry carbon project needs to follow. Australian plantation forestry projects are typically run under the Emission Reduction Fund’s 2022 plantation forestry methodology.

By storing carbon within your plantation and its products, you are removing carbon from the atmosphere. This removal – and subsequent increase in your carbon stocks – earns you carbon credits.

Under the ERF’s 2022 Plantation forestry methodology, there are four different ways to earn carbon credits. These four options are called schedules, and include:

1. Establish a new plantation
2. Convert existing plantation from short to long rotation
3. Continuing plantation activities (rather than converting to ag land)
4. Transition to permanent forest

Learn more about the ins and outs of a plantation forestry carbon project here.  

As there are four different ways to run a plantation project, we’ve provided high-level eligibility information for each via a simple table which you can download here 

 

This table is just a general guide and you can see a more comprehensive eligibility checklist here for a Schedule 1 plantation forestry project here. However, individual projects and different schedules will need to be examined on a case-by-case basis.  

There is no real-time carbon measurement under the plantation forestry methodology. Instead, the projected net carbon yield that will be stored in your project’s trees, plantation products, and debris and lost via harvesting and thinning events across a 25-year crediting period is modelled in advance using the government’s Full Carbon Accounting Model (FullCAM) tool.

While our software DIY Carbon is not yet fully built out to assess FullCAM yield for plantation forestry projects, the CFF team can manually model indicative FullCAM yield for your plots as part of our feasibility services.

FullCAM is a carbon yield calculation tool built from climate, soil and biomass data that has been recorded since the 1970s. This tool gives you a firmer idea of how many tonnes of CO2e (and carbon credits) you can yield from your plantation forestry project. This is then converted into Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e), and in turn into carbon credits. One tonne of CO2e = one carbon credit.

 

You can read more about the FullCAM methodology on our blog here. 

Check out our indicative project timeframes table to understand more about the key deliverables and timeframes for a plantation forestry carbon project. Please note, your project registration must be complete before you start most activities at the site. CFF can help you get your project registered with the CER. Get in touch to learn more.  

The permanence period is the timeframe in which you need to commit to running a carbon project on your site. It can either be 25 years or 100 years.

 

Technically if your permanence period is 25 years, there is no further obligation to run the carbon project after this time has passed. However, as a safeguard against the potential for carbon sequestration to ‘reverse’ through events such as vegetation removal or fire, a portion of carbon credits are withheld by the CER in a buffer pool for security. For a 25-year permanence period project, 25% of the carbon credits are retained by the regulator, for a 100-year permanence period only 5% are retained, in acknowledgement of the longer commitment to carbon sequestration.

Your local timber hubs can provide helpful resources to farmers looking to undertake plantation forestry project. We’ve published a list of each state’s timber hub here.

Through your local timber hub you can access*:

  • Free advice

  • Seedlings

  • Grants to have a forester do farm mapping and a report

  • Regional investment loans

  • Offtake agreements for sawlogs

*This list may differ across each state timber hub

Get in touch with the CFF to discuss our feasibility services.

Head to our Education Hub to grow your knowledge in the plantation forestry carbon space. If a carbon farming project doesn’t quite stack up for you now, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to keep your finger on the carbon farming pulse.

Carbon Farming Risks & Mitigation Strategies

There are several options available to you. You can either:

 

  • Transfer the land title, but retain ownership and obligations associated with the project.
     
  • Transfer the ownership of the project to the new landowner along with the land.

  • In the unlikely event that the first two options are not feasible, you can also cancel the project and return any carbon credits you’ve been awarded to the Regulator.

The option selected – and how you might retain or assign carbon credits associated with the project – will depend on your circumstances and your negotiations with the farm buyer.

Risks will be project specific but may include:

  • Rainfall variability

  • Extreme weather events and carbon reversal

  • Land use opportunity costs


There are many ways to avoid or mitigate these risks. CFF’s services, from initial feasibility all the way through to project setup, are designed to help you understand and plan for risk in the context of your operation. We also encourage you to seek the advice of local experts like agronomists, foresters and financial and legal advisors to set up your project for success from the outset.

If your project is hit by an extreme weather event, such as bushfire or drought, it is important to understand the Clean Energy Regulator’s official policy. You should always clarify this before registering a project with the ERF. The ERF states that an extreme weather event is a “natural disturbance or reversal event” when it affects at least 5% of the project area.

Using drought or bushfire as an example, provided the farming enterprise notifies the Regulator within 60 days of a drought being declared or bushfire damage, and they can show that reasonable actions were taken to reduce the impacts of their project, the Regulator allows flexibility in managing carbon loss. You can read more about how a carbon reversal event can be managed via our example drought scenario here.

We provide some tips on how you can mitigate the risk of drought affecting your soil carbon project in our blog here.

Some tips are:

  • Make sure your area receives enough rainfall to run a successful soil carbon project

  • Order a CFF feasibility report

  • Plan with your agronomist

  • Undertake a shorter project permanence period (25 years)

  • Hold your credits

  • Destock as appropriate

  • Keep good records of the reversal event and your risk reduction management activities

  • Be strategic about when you test your soil

We provide some tips on how to decrease the risk and impact of bushfires on your carbon project here.


Some tips are:

  • Undergo a locally specific project plan and planting design that considers the risk of bushfires to native trees.

  • Engage a local forestry expert to advise on clever design and ongoing management activities.

  • Implement those activities and keep good records.

  • Investigate insurance options that cover bushfires.

  • Following the local Shire’s fire management notice e.g. managing firebreaks.