New report from Australia's NFF sets agriculture up for a sustainable future

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 percent 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 programmes, 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 programme 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.