Farmers key to shaping our environmental future

Australian farmers are on the frontline of delivering environmental outcomes on behalf of the wider community – owning, managing and caring for 61% of the nation’s land.

A recent report, funded by AgriFutures Australia’s National Rural Issues Program, identified areas of common ground between NRM programs and industry-led sustainability initiatives. According to Michael Beer, General Manager, Business Development for AgriFutures Australia, given the large amount of land under management by Australian farmers, new initiatives from primary producers had the ability to positively leverage environmental outcomes for the nation as a whole.

“Industries including dairy, eggs, cotton and beef are stepping forward to create sustainability frameworks,” said Mr Beer. “These frameworks are informing research and development priorities and, in turn, shaping best management practice guidelines.”

The report by GHD has identified potential policies to boost collaboration between industry, research and development corporations (RDCs) and NRM regional bodies, and proposes a roadmap of ten key recommendations;

Industry
1. Engage NRM regional bodies early in the development and implementation of sustainability initiatives, including in steering committees and consultative groups as appropriate.
2. Consider the role of NRM regional bodies in extension and adoption activities, including exploring more effective ways to share R&D findings relating to improved practices.
3. Map where there is commonality across sectors in indicators and data requirements.
4. Coordinate and participate in forums for ongoing engagement with NRM regional bodies.

NRM regional bodies
5. Involve industry in regional strategic planning and program development.
6. Invest in a catalogue or inventory of available data that could be made available to industry under appropriate partnership arrangements.
7. Coordinate and participate in forums for ongoing engagement with industry RDCs and other peak bodies leading the development of sector specific sustainability initiatives.

Government
8. Provide coordination and leadership through the development of a national sustainable agriculture strategy that demonstrates clear linkages with international standards and goals.
9. Progress the development of a national set of environmental accounts to underpin this strategy aiding alignment of indicators and data requirements across sectors and regions.
10. Consider how current and future program settings can be used to improve the strategic alignment of the goals and priorities contained in industry-led sustainability frameworks and NRM regional plans.

In concluding, Mr Beer added “The findings of the report are relevant to all agriculture, fish and forestry industries across Australia, particularly those that have developed, or intend to develop, industry-wide sustainability initiatives, including strategies, frameworks and Best Management Practice programs and guidelines.”

The report is available to download from the AgriFuture website here.

Image credit: North Queensland Dry Tropics NRM

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