Agriculture strategies need to be ‘better connected’

Sustainable agricultural strategies need to be better connected, with different initiatives not well co-ordinated and lacking a clear plan, the minister responsible for the sector has told farmers and industry stakeholders.

Murray Watt used an address in Canberra on Tuesday to outline how more than $300 million will be spent from the Climate-Smart Agriculture Program over the next five years.

Around 100 delegates including farmers, departmental representatives and academics are meeting at the Australian Farm Institute’s roundtable to look at the industry’s challenges and opportunities.

Senator Watt says more than $85 million will be spent on sustainable agriculture measures to help farmers, with an additional $40 million to be spent on a network of sustainability facilitators to help producers.

A further $36 million will be used to help improve Australia’s soil.

“This integrated suite of investment represents a clear-sighted and comprehensive response to what we have heard through consultation with agriculture stakeholders up to now,” Senator Watt said.

The minister said a lot was being done for sustainable agriculture however, “it’s not particularly well tied together.”

The different initiatives were not well co-ordinated and lacked a clear plan.

“It does need to be better connected,” he said.

Australia’s first ever agriculture and land sector plan which is being developed, will help deliver a net zero emissions economy by 2050, Senator Watt said.

The council of Australia’s 15 Research & Development Corporations, Troy Setter told the roundtable that agriculture fell across too many government portfolios.

“We have a system where food and agriculture on the production end sits in the Department of Agriculture then moves across to other departments for environment, regulation, processing, value adding and moves back to food and agriculture for trade, market access and biosecurity,” he said.

“It’s very hard for industry to work together when government has such structured silos.”

The meeting was told Australian agriculture performs well on the world stage when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions.

Agriculture contributes almost 17 per cent of national greenhouse gas emissions, with that number set to increase to around 20 per cent in the next decade, the department of agriculture’s Nick Blong told the roundtable.

“Australian agriculture and food and fibre production has a lower emissions intensity than a lot of our competitors across both livestock and cropping sectors,” Mr Blong said.

Richard Heath from the Australian Farm Institute said the roundtable was a chance “to look at the why, what and how we improve processes, and think about better co-ordination and connectivity between all the strategies”.

The approach had been too piecemeal in the past with too many strategies from different groups, he said.

He cited numerous examples, from the National Farmers Federation 2030 roadmap, to the strategies of the 15 Rural Research and Development Corporations, as well as the aims of the different state and territory governments.

“It’s not that any one of those plans are deficient in their own right, they all address really significant issues and really important problems, but they all work into the same space.”


Liv Casben
(Australian Associated Press)


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