National Farmers Federation, Media Release, 9 February 2022
Farmers are one step closer to being recognised and rewarded for their efforts in enhancing and maintaining biodiversity across 51% of the Australian landscape.
Today, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud introduced the Agriculture Biodiversity Conservation Bill to the House of Representatives.
NFF President Fiona Simson said the NFF supported the Bill as an important next step in valuing the contribution agriculture makes to the environment.
“Everyday Australian farmers manage more than half of the nation’s landmass, on behalf of all Australians.
“This Bill sets in motion a process for framework legislation which, if enacted, will allow protocols to be developed to allow natural capital values, starting with biodiversity, to be formally traded.
“Importantly the Bill focuses on valuing biodiversity on land that is sub-optimal for food and fibre production,” Ms Simson said.
The voluntary scheme will allow farmers to trade their biodiversity values and create a pathway to both reliably measuring and reporting biodiversity and to use that knowledge to participate in emerging markets.
These so-called ‘new commodities’ will support greater diversity of income; lead to more resilient farm businesses in the face of challenges such as drought and empower Australian agriculture to further demonstrate its sustainability credentials.”
Under the framework, biodiversity, unlike traditional farm commodities which are delivered to a buyer, will need to be maintained and/or established within the farm boundaries, much like carbon sequestration in vegetation and soil. There will be an ongoing relationship between the supplier (farmer) and purchaser to manage and report the status.
Ms Simson said the Bill represented a transformational change for Australian agriculture, providing a carrot rather than a stick to farmers to positively manage their farm environment.
“It gives farmers another string to their bow. Each season, farmers make choices about crop plantings and livestock numbers. The opportunity to trade their biodiversity values provides a further and longer term choice that they can draw upon when it suits their farm business.
“The NFF’s 2030 Roadmap includes a goal for, by 2030, 5% of farmers income to come from ecosystem services payments.”
Ms Simson said the NFF had made it clear the Bill must not limit the scope of activity to new biodiversity works or projects, but must also recognise and value existing habitat that farmers have voluntarily and responsibly maintained.
The NFF is, with Government support, also well advanced in developing an Agriculture Sustainability Framework, to address emerging demands for evidence of Australia’s agriculture’s sustainability credentials for investment and trade purposes.
As part of this NFF will develop linkages to national scale data sets to provide greater robustness to the sustainability criteria through a new partnership with the Macdoch Foundation. NFF Member, Agforce is also developing the AgCarE program to better understand agriculture’s sustainability status.
Ms Simson said the NFF would now thoroughly review the Bill and provide further advice to Government as necessary.