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Stewardship: farmers to deliver environmental works

30 August 2008

TODAY the Australian Government kicked off the Environmental Stewardship Program – long advocated by the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) – under a $42.5 million pilot program. The pilot will initially target endangered Box Gum Grassy Woodlands in the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee Valleys of NSW.

NFF CEO Ben Fargher, Master of Ceremonies at the launch in Bungendore (NSW) this morning, welcomed the Government’s commitment to the Environmental Stewardship Program and its preparedness to consider extending the pilot beyond today’s regions to cover more environmental priorities.

“Earlier this week the Wild Australia Program study found that 40% of Australia qualifies as wilderness, with our continent one of the top five most significant wild areas – in terms of both size and quality – on Earth,” Mr Fargher said.

“One of the key findings of the study was that we lack the human presence on-the-ground to effectively manage pests, weeds and eco-systems. Farmers occupy and manage 61% of Australia’s landmass, so building a partnership between Government and farmers to deliver environmental works makes perfect sense. That certainly has been the basis of the NFF’s proposal.

“Environmental management on farms is two-pronged. In a business sense, sound environmental management has helped deliver more effective and efficient farming, with environmentally-friendly practices making the sector sustainable, profitable and more drought-resistance.

“The second factor, supported by the Government’s announcement today, is that often the very environmental icons the community wants to conserve – such as the Box Gum Grassy Woodlands – are, literally, in farmers’ backyards.

“Naturally, the community expects that these natural resources, and the wildlife dependent on them, should be conserved and protected. Australian farmers, therefore, are at the frontline of managing flora and fauna on behalf of all Australians.

“Under the stewardship concept we initiated, farmers taking responsibility for the active management of environmental assets on their properties will be recognised and supported for providing that community service – such as delivering pest and weed management and maintaining green corridors for wildlife conservation.

“Stewardship recognises that farmers have been improving environmental sustainability on the farm and taking greater responsibility for ecological land management. Today’s launch is a win for farmers, the environment and the broader community.

“Importantly, stewardship is a long-term initiative partnering with farmers for up to 15 years. This breaks the cycle of short-term planning in environmental programs to focus on genuine long-term solutions.

“As such, we expect that this is only the beginning as the range of environmental outcomes the community demands will require a continued investment into the future. We look forward to greater collaboration with the Government in developing the program, and the stewardship concept, further.

“Australian farmers spend $3 billion-a-year of their own money on natural resource management, they plant over 20 million trees-a-year – solely for conservation purposes, and 94.3% of farmers have environmental programs in place to manage and preserve the land. Farmers are in the vanguard of delivering real, long-term environmental outcomes.”

[ENDS]

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.

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