A national accountancy firm says farm foresters need to realise the implications of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) if they are to avoid harsh penalties.
BDO has analysed the ETS, which is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by between 10% and 20% of 1990 levels by 2020, and has assessed the risks and opportunities for landowners.
The forestry sector has been bound into the scheme for three years.
A BDO partner, Charles Rau, says foresters have the opportunity to make a significant amount of money out of the ETS, but if they get it wrong it could cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Mr Rau says the scheme is compulsory for pre-1990 forest owners but they have the choice of accepting a one-off allocation of free carbon credits from the Government by November or applying for an exemption from penalties before the end of September.
He says the worst thing for farmers under the scheme is to do nothing and not seek advice.
'Windfall' of 76 million credits
The Farm Forestry Association says foresters will be missing out on a windfall if they do not pick up the carbon credits being offered for pre-1990 plantations.
It says the Government has 76 million credits to give out to owners of those forests under the ETS.
Twenty-one million of the credits are available between now and the end of November.
At the current market price of about $19 per carbon unit, those credits would be worth more than $1.4 billion.
Association president John Dermer says, however, that farmers and other owners of small forests are being very slow to claim their allocations.
He says he finds that puzzling and says people who do not claim the credits are stupid.