Rewarding farmers for biodiversity

By David Littleproud MP, Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud MP.

Today more than ever, farmers deserve to be rewarded for the services they provide for the national good – like biodiversity stewardship and carbon sequestration.

That’s why I’ve announced a $30 million pilot to incentivise farmers for these services. The pilot will run across different regions and different commodities as we test whether farmers can successfully make biodiversity and carbon gains for our nation and get a serious income stream from it.

If this works, I’d love to see it become part of the Climate Solutions Fund, so this could become broad policy and farmers everywhere could receive financial incentive for biodiversity work and carbon storage.

I’ve also announced $4 million so farmers who are managing biodiversity well can get a nationally and internationally recognised biodiversity accreditation and stamp on their product. This could provide a premium to farmers who are in many cases, already doing these things without financial reward.

I attended the EU Agriculture Minister’s conference in Berlin recently, and this is the way the world is headed. Consumers both in our key overseas markets and here in Australia are increasingly wanting produce which is farmed both sustainably and in a way which helps our native wildlife.

Our farming land must be managed sustainably in order to maintain a competitive agriculture sector and embracing innovation is key to achieving this.

In September 2018, I commissioned Ernst & Young (EY) to examine our agricultural innovation system to determine if it was fit for the future. If we keep doing the same thing while our competitors improve, we may as well be going backwards. The report has provided us with a clear vision for the future of innovation in our agricultural industries, highlighting key areas for improvement if the industry is to reach its target of a $100 billion sector by 2030.

If we want Australia’s agricultural sector to continue to grow, we need to turn these visions into actions.

That’s why the Coalition Government has just awarded over $39 million in grant funding for projects to help us get there. This funding takes the government’s total commitment to the Rural R&D for profit program to over $153 million over four rounds.

This round four funding will go to projects across the livestock, horticulture and cropping industries, including a program to transform the performance of honey bees and phase two of a project to convert agricultural waste into animal feed and chemicals.

We are also supporting innovation through Smart Farms, the key agricultural component of our National Landcare Program. Under Smart Farms, Smart Farming Partnerships will improve sustainable production and natural resource management on Australian farms, enable capacity building within communities and demonstrate the sustainability of Australian agriculture. The first round of grants were an overwhelming success, funding 15 projects worth $27 million.

The second round of grants for the Smart Farming Partnerships is now open, for projects to develop, trial and implement new practices or tools. I encourage anyone with fresh ideas on how to improve the protection, resilience and productive capacity of our soils, water and vegetation while maintaining or improving the productive capacity of our agricultural industries to apply for these grants.

Sustainable farms means sustainable regional economies, and thriving local communities.

Together with our scientists, researchers, farmers and communities we can develop the technologies and practices that will prepare Australia’s agricultural sector for the years and decades ahead.

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