A QUEENSLAND organisation representing thousands of farmers abstained from voting on a 2050 carbon neutral target, because it wants practical steps to fighting climate change to be taken sooner.
Last week, the National Farmers' Federation revealed the broad church of agriculture would back the 2050 target, after members voted in favour of the policy.
However, AgForce declined to take part in the vote, because it says a national baseline of the ag industry's carbon footprint must be established, so practical "on-the-ground" action can quickly follow.
AgForce chief executive Michael Guerin said primary producers were desperate to tackle climate change, but without a baseline they had no idea where to start or what areas to prioritise.
"It's come to the point where we must stand up and insist this work is done, so we can contribute as strongly as we can," Mr Guerin said.
"There are so many that want to contribute, and they're so frustrated that we kick the can down the road without an obvious first piece."
By abstaining from the vote, Mr Guerin said AgForce sent a signal that it would "not be patted on the head about prioritising this work".
Mr Guerin said AgForce was "very supportive" of NFF's target and didn't vote against in because members "want to see progress", with many believing the industry could be carbon neutral "way ahead of 2050".
"For decades now, we've talked about climate change and better outcomes for the environment," he said.
"But the primary producers who look after the land are left watching as this stuff goes around them.
"Nothing flows down in a practical sense that allows primary producers to contribute, to get stuck in and do it with clear guidance."
Some work has been done on establishing the total carbon footprint of the industry - Meat and Livestock Australia and Grains Research and Development Corporation have both investigated their sector's contribution, but there has been no national coordinated effort.
"We have a raft of organisations and no coordination about the biggest issue facing us," Mr Guerin said.
"We all need to agree to work together and prioritise this one piece of work.
"If we don't, we get a lovely target, but with no way to get there."
NFF chief executive Tony Mahar said there was a clear caveat in the policy that stated "robust science" will be used to establish credible baselines.
"So in that sense, the NFF aligns with state farming groups' requirement for the collection of baseline data to determine agriculture's net carbon position," Mr Mahar said.
"Getting the answers while setting targets can be tricky.
"But the NFF and our members believe, like many business owners know, it's not always possible to have all the answers, even when you know where you need to go."
Mr Guerin suggested the CSIRO or AgriFutures Australia could conduct the whole of industry study, but didn't mind who took the lead.
"We're agnostic about who does it, we just want the work done," he said.
"Without it, agriculture will continue going in circles and be accused of not caring [about climate change]."
Mr Mahar said establishing a single baseline was no easy task.
"Individual farms can be both sequesters and emitters depending on their commodity and practice mix," he said.
"There lays the need for detailed understanding of the baselines for sectors and associated management practices, and the need to consolidate this information to support whole-farm multi-commodity planning."