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Farmers say conserving biodiversity is a shared responsibility

11 January 2010

2010: International Year of Biodiversity

TODAY marks the launch of the ‘International Year of Biodiversity’. Biodiversity is of critical interest to farmers – since biodiversity and agriculture are interdependent and both are pivotal in addressing looming climate change and food security pressures.

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) says the challenge before the Australian Government – as with world governments – is striking the right balance between biodiversity while, at the same time, ensuring that farmers are able to increase food production by the 70% needed come 2050 to feed a projected world population of nine billion people.

“Australian farmers are crucial to conserving ecosystems,” NFF President David Crombie said. “This is reflected in Australia’s Environmental Stewardship program, currently in Phase One, which has been overwhelming embraced by farmers over the past two years.

“In fact, under the 2010 Federal Budget, we are calling on the Rudd Government to expand the Environmental Stewardship program to cover all endangered species and ecological systems listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

“Farmers are Australia’s frontline in dealing positively and proactively in managing environmental needs (see Fact Sheet below at Attachment A). When we think of complex ecosystems, natural habitats and endangered species, I don’t think people realise these national assets are literally in farmers’ backyards.

“Farm-gate environmental management is two-pronged. Firstly, sound natural resource management drives effective and efficient farm techniques, making farming viable and sustainable. Increasingly, environmentally-friendly practices are generating long-term profitability, improved drought resistance and making our resources more sustainable.

“Secondly, beyond the business, farmers are often required (by various local, state and federal laws) to lock-up large sections of their properties to preserve native vegetation… essentially having stewardship of those natural resources on behalf of all Australians.

“However, as a consequence, farmers lose the productive capacity of those areas from their properties, while incurring ongoing costs to conserve and protect the land, including pest and weed management and maintaining green corridors for wildlife conservation.

“Farmers are the first to recognise they have a duty of care to sustainably manage the environment, but they also need help when going over and beyond that duty of care. Farmers taking extra responsibility for environmental management deserve recognition of the costs involved, as well as their time and expertise in delivering sound frontline land care.

“As a nation, we have moved beyond the outdated myth that farmers are somehow divorced from the rest of the community in wanting to preserve our environment. In fact, farmers plant over 20 million trees every year just for conservation reasons, preserving the land for generations to come.

“Expanding the Environmental Stewardship program would recognise that farmers have been improving environmental sustainability on-farm and taking greater responsibility for ecological land management – delivering positive outcomes for farms, the community and the environment.”

FACT SHEET: ATTACHMENT A

Australian farmers – frontline environmentalists

  • Farmers occupy and manage 54% of Australia’s landmass, as such, they are at the frontline in delivering environmental outcomes on behalf of the broader community.

- Australian Bureau of Statistics, Land Management and Farming in Australia, 2007-2008.

  • Natural Resource Management is a fundamental activity on Australian farms. In fact, 94.3% of Australian farms actively undertake Natural Resource Management.

- Australian Bureau of Statistics, Natural Resource Management on Australian Farms 2006-07.

  • Farmers improving their Natural Resource Management practices reported doing so to increase productivity (88.6%), for farm sustainability (88.4%) and better environmental protection (74.5%).

- Australian Bureau of Statistics, Natural Resource Management on Australian Farms 2006-07.

  • Australian farmers spent $3 billion on Natural Resource Management over 2006-07, actively managing or preventing weed, pest, land and soil, native vegetation or water-related issues on their properties. More than $2.3 billion was spent on weed and pest management, while land and soil-related activities accounted for $649 million of total expenditure.

- Australian Bureau of Statistics, Natural Resource Management on Australian Farms 2006-07.

  • In 1991, the Agricultural Census recorded that farmers planted 9,000,000 tree seedlings for conservation purposes. The 2001 Census recorded farmers planting 20.6 million tree seedlings solely for conservation purposes.

- Australian Bureau of Statistics, Agricultural Census, 1991 & 2001.

  • Our farmers have led Australian primary industries in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a massive 40% between 1990 and 2006. This is Australia’s leading greenhouse gas reduction contribution.

- Australian Government Department of Climate Change, National Inventory by Economic Sector 2006.

  • 71% of farmers reported barriers to greater Natural Resource Management activity, including a lack of financial resources (78.9%), time (63.1%), government incentives (40%), age and ill-health (22.2%).

- Australian Bureau of Statistics, Natural Resource Management on Australian Farms 2006-07.

Australian farmers – food & fibre producers

  • Australian farmers produce almost 93% of Australia’s daily domestic food supply. Food imports contribute 7.5% of the total value of Australian retail food sales.

- Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Australian Food Statistics 2007.

  • Australian farms and their closely related sectors generate $137 billion-a-year in production – underpinning 12% of GDP.

- derived from modeling by Econtech, Australia’s Farm Dependent Economy Report, 2005
and ABARE, Australian Commodity Statistics, 2008.

  • Over the last recorded 30 years (1974-75 to 2003-04), Australian farms have consistently achieved average multi-factor productivity growth of 2.8%-a-year – no other industry, with the sole exception of telecommunications and information technology, comes close to this achievement.

- Australian Government Productivity Commission, Trends in Australian Agriculture 2005.

  • Australia exports a massive 60% (in volume) of total agricultural production. In terms of value, this represents around 67% of the total gross value of Australian agricultural production.

- ABARE, Australian Commodity Statistics, 2008.

  • In terms of export earnings for Australia, agriculture makes a massive contribution to the national economy accounting for $31 billion in the 2008 calendar year.

- Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Trade At A Glance, 2009.

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