The important role that farmers play in managing native vegetation to achieve positive environmental and production outcomes has been recognised in a new Federal Government report.
The report, Native vegetation management on agricultural land, found that 85 per cent of farmers were gaining on-farm production and/or environmental benefits; with most indicating they wanted to do even more because of the benefits they were gaining.
In a press release issued on Friday, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences executive Director, Paul Morris, said the report found many landholders are ready to engage with governments on managing native vegetation, with a number already engaged through existing programs.
“This shows that there are opportunities to build on existing programs to improve production and conservation outcomes on farmland, which is particularly important given the long term implications of native vegetation decision making,” Mr Morris said.
“The report examines the way we manage native vegetation resources on our agricultural lands, highlights some of the key challenges that our farmers face, as well as the programs concerned with native vegetation management”.
Mr Morris said traditional government assistance through extension and other mechanisms will continue to be important given the complexities of managing land for multiple outcomes.
There were also new opportunities to increase environmental outcomes and benefits to farmers by developing markets for environmental services from native vegetation.
NSW Farmers said the report highlighted the substantial contribution farmers make to improving environmental outcomes.
“As farmers, we’ve known for a long time that our industry is managing native vegetation for both environmental and production outcomes. But, to see our efforts recognised is very rewarding”, NSW Farmers president Fiona Simson said.
The report’s findings correspond with a survey of members by NSW Farmers earlier this year which found environmental sustainability plays a role in business decision making for 93 percent of farmers.
“The facts are showing there is a revolution going on in our industry as we dedicate increasing amounts of time to improving sustainability.”
“Through movements like Landcare, farmers are better informed than ever about how to maximise environmental outcomes on their land. What this report highlights is the benefits of working collaboratively with farmers and tailoring practices to suit the local landscape, rather than taking a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all regulatory approach.
“Importantly, the report found that improving the transparency of regulations improves their effectiveness in delivering environmental outcomes through greater farmer engagement,” Ms Simson said.
NSW Farmers is seeking targeted changes to the Native Vegetation Act 2003 to enable farmers to actively manage their landscape. Currently farmers can face fines of up to $1.3 million and 2 years in prison for broadscale land clearing – defined as the removal of a single native plant.
Ms Simson said in light of cultural changes within the industry in the past 15 years, it’s time for a fresh approach to natural resource management for farm land which partners with farmers rather than sidelining them in the process.
The report, Native vegetation management on agricultural land is available on the ABARES website at www.daff.gov.au/abares/publications.