Rewarding biodiversity on farms

By: Cat Fitzpatrick

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New programs incentivise farmers to increase biodiversity

Rewarding biodiversity on farms
The government will support schemes designed to support biodiversity on farms.

 

A $30 million program launched by the Federal Government will provide incentives to farmers for projects designed to improve biodiversity on farms – including the potential for payments for carbon.

The pilot Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Program announced in March will be used to support projects such as maintaining or enhancing remnant forests, regenerating gullies or waterways or planting of mixed species of native trees.


CSIRO Scientists were talking about storing carbon on farms back in 2016 - check out our story here


Another $4 million will go towards creating a​ biodiversity certification scheme that would help selected farmers get an extra premium for their product at the checkout and when they trade with other countries.

The National Farmer’s Federation (NFF) will help develop this certification scheme, with NFF president Fiona Simson saying the program will both help farmers contribute to positive environmental outcomes as well as giving them cash to pursue drought-proofing measures.

Simson says currently, farmers bore the considerable burden of protecting ‘matters of national environmental significance’ as determined by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act; for example certain native grasses.

"By legislation farmers are compelled to carry out protective works at their own expense. A failure to protect required assets puts farmers at risk of breaching the Act, which is by and large legislation that is poorly designed, communicated and understood," she says.

"The NFF has long called for farmers to be recognised fiscally for the environmental benefits they deliver, every day on behalf of all Australians," she says – saying the concept had received support from both Coalition and Labor governments over the years.

"The result is a win for farmers and the environment."

Agriculture minister David Littleproud says introducing a market-based system for promoting biodiversity could be a drought-proof income stream.

"These programs will be trialled across different commodities and in different regions and if successful, I hope it will be expanded as national policy following the trial," he says.

"Farmers are already making money from carbon payments and in the future we could potentially see farmers receiving payment for both biodiversity and carbon benefits from the same project," he says, though he pointed out the program was not part of the government’s Climate Solutions Fund.

"Given almost 300 projects involving revegetation have been approved through the Emissions Reduction Fund, many landholders already believe they can make comparable returns from carbon payments to what they would running livestock, depending on circumstance and region," he says. 

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