Regional consultations begin next week inviting farmers’ input on the development of a framework to reward them for promoting biodiversity through verification mechanisms.
The National Farmers’ Federation has a goal for five per cent of farmers’ income to be derived from ecosystem services by 2030. The target is part of the NFF’s plan for agriculture to be a $100 billion industry by the same year.
NFF CEO Tony Mahar said farmers cared for 51% of the national landscape, everyday delivering ecosystem benefits on behalf of all Australians.
“The connection between land management, the environment and farm businesses is well established, but is not yet properly recognised or rewarded,” Mr Mahar said.
“The NFF is committed to working with Government and business to develop a mechanism that delivers $20 billion back to farmers for the work they do managing the nation’s landscape.”
Mr Mahar said the NFF’s 2030 Roadmap identified the opportunity to maintain and improve environmental outcomes by establishing a verification mechanism for sustainable agriculture practices including where they support the protection of biodiversity.
In 2019, the Federal Government announced funding for the development of an Australian Farm Biodiversity Scheme, to be progressed by the NFF.
As part of the Agriculture Stewardship Package, the aim of the scheme is to consider ways to reward farmers for managing biodiversity on farm, through verification mechanisms.
The Australian Farm Institute is working with the NFF, looking at international best-practice management standards and their potential applicability to Australian agriculture.
“These findings will underpin the practical development of viable options and then the trial of biodiversity verification mechanisms to be developed by mid-2022,” AFI Executive Director Richard Heath said.
Mr Heath said without measures to demonstrate performance against evolving global sustainability demands, the industry was vulnerable to missing future market opportunities.
“Australian agriculture has an enviable reputation as a producer of ‘clean, green’ food and fibre but currently ranks 61st out of 180 countries for biodiversity and habitat on the Environmental Performance Index,” Mr Heath said.s
Mr Mahar noted that farmers continued to provide public good conservation outcomes at their own cost.
“Rebalancing that equation using emerging mechanisms is a great opportunity for the farm sector and the wider community. In progressing this project, we need to work with farmers to understand what are the best ways to meet their verification needs for sustainability and biodiversity metrics,” Mr Mahar said.
A key part of the project is a series of consultative forums to be held in 10 regional areas across the country between March and May.
Forums will be held in:
- York; Western Australia
- Toowoomba, Townsville & Emerald; Queensland
- Orange & Wagga Wagga; New South Wales
- Warragul & Horsham; Victoria
- Launceston; Tasmania
- Clare; South Australia
For those unable to attend a forum in person, two webinars will also be held later in the schedule.
“There are a wide number of challenges across all agricultural industries in all regions, so by presenting our summary of international and domestic systems to regional forums across the country, we hope industry guidance and leadership can come up with the best solutions” Mr Mahar said.
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