Report sets agriculture up for a sustainable future

The input of
more than 500 farmers and subject matter experts has
contributed to a report released today by the National Farmers’ Federation, which is
a preliminary step towards transforming the relationship
between agriculture and environmental management and
enhancement.

The Recognising
On-farm Biodiversity Management report delivers on Phase 1
of the Federal Government’s Australian Farm Biodiversity
Scheme and was prepared by the Australian Farm Institute.

“Farmers
manage over 50% of the Australian landscape,” NFF CEO Tony Mahar
said.

“Farmers and agriculture are therefore critical to
delivering positive environmental and sustainability outcomes, including
looking after our important biodiversity, managing our soil and protecting our
waterways.

“This
report starts the process to better recognise farmers for their
stewardship and to develop a framework that sees a
real team approach between farmers, government and
private industry.”

The NFF’s Roadmap for agriculture to be a $100 billion industry by 2030 is clear on the benefits that can flow when farmers embrace sustainable farm methods as part of a coordinated national framework that drives productivity and profitability.

“Taking a
collaborative and carrot-based approach as opposed to a top-down stick approach
has the potential to be a real game-changer for farmers and the environment.”

“Our goal
remains – we want to see farmers recognised and, where
appropriate, remunerated for their positive environmental outcomes,” Mr
Mahar said.

AFI Executive Director Richard Heath, Author of the report said During the
consultation, farmers identified the complexity, cost and difficulty of
assessing and participating in multiple programs, as barriers to participating
in current stewardship programs, including market-based initiatives.

The
report found that best results were likely to
come from an overarching framework that connected and
verified current and emerging programs, providing farmers with
choice. This framework will provide a pathway to assuring market access,
demonstrating robustness of verification and measurement tools, and
supporting the further diversification of economic opportunities for
farmers.

“The diversity
of Australia’s landscape and farm businesses means a one-size-fits-all
program is unlikely to work,” Mr Heath said

“Another key
finding of the report was the absolute need for robust data
and a consistent method by which to
benchmark that data,”.

“Systems to
incentivise sustainability outcomes can’t succeed without the solid foundation
of data to establish baselines, evaluate changes, justly reward
participants and to demonstrate value.” Mr Heath said

Mr Mahar
said improved sustainability approaches and outcomes were important to
bolstering farmers’ resilience in the face of drought and other
pressures.

The NFF is now
focussing on developing a framework or meta-standard for Australian
agriculture sustainability as
part of the Australian Government’s $34 million Agricultural Stewardship
package. This will be the next phase of work and the NFF will
facilitate a range of complementary pieces of work to support the development
of this critical tool.

The NFF looks forward
delivering this important work.

The AFI report can be viewed HERE, a Youtube clip summarising the AFI report is also here. A briefing paper on the report is here

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