Rewarding biodiversity on farm
26 March 2019
Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud has announced new programs which would see farmers receive incentives for a range of projects to improve biodiversity on farms, incorporating payment for carbon if appropriate.
A $30 million pilot Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Program would see farmers receive incentives for projects that boost biodiversity and also, if appropriate, absorb carbon. Projects such as maintaining or enhancing remnant forest, regeneration of gullies or waterways, or mixed species native tree plantings could be examples of projects.
Additionally, $4 million will go towards creating a national and internationally recognised biodiversity certification scheme to help biodiversity-friendly farmers get an extra premium for their product at the checkout and when they trade with other countries.
The NFF will help develop this certification scheme so farm groups have ownership of and invest in it.
"I've always thought farmers should see the benefits managing the biodiversity on their properties, and a market based system can become a drought-proof income stream for them," Minister Littleproud said.
"These programs will be trialled across different commodities and in different regions and if successful, I hope it will be expanded as national policy following the trial.
"An on-farm biodiversity policy and methodology will need to be developed and we'll be consulting with Australian National University and farm groups on this.
"Farmers are already making money from carbon payments and in the future we could potentially see farmers receiving payment for both biodiversity and carbon benefits from the same project.
"This pilot program is not part of the Climate Solutions Fund - this is a dedicated trial aimed at biodiversity, although of course projects will likely have a carbon benefit also which farmers deserve recognition for.
"Farmers should be rewarded for having plants and animals on their farm, not penalised through banning them using that land and offering no compensation.
"I'm offering a carrot to farmers who look after biodiversity and absorb carbon, not additional and unnecessary regulation which is what Labor will introduce if elected.
"Farmers love nature and are also running a business. We need to recognise both these realities.
"In many cases an incentive system such as this will both boost production - cattle and sheep put on more meat when they have good shelter which bush or shelter belts provide - plus the financial incentive as well.
"Given almost 300 projects involving revegetation have been approved through the Emissions Reduction Fund, many landholders already believe they can make comparable returns from carbon payments to what they would running livestock, depending on circumstance and region.
"A biodiversity certification scheme will also give farmers motivation and reward for looking after nature on their properties.
"If shoppers are prepared to pay more for produce that carries a biodiversity stamp then let's create a brand and reward farmers who do that.
"This is the way the world is headed. On my recent trip to the EU Agriculture Ministers' Conference, I saw how serious the rest of the world is about farmers looking after biodiversity. If Australia is to continue to be a world leader and maintain its key selling point overseas - our clean green reputation - then we need to be thinking ahead of the game and these schemes are part of that picture."