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2019 Spring - Managing agriculture’s ecosystem services

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Farm Policy Journal: Vol 16 No 3 2019 Spring - Full Journal - Managing agriculture’s ecosystem services

Australian Farm Institute (2019), Managing agriculture’s ecosystem services, Farm Policy Journal, Vol. 16, No. 3, Spring 2019, Surry Hills, Australia.

ISSN 1449–2210 (Print)
ISSN 1449–8812 (Web)


FPJ1603B - Guerin, M & Foley, R (2019), Natural capital: a paradigm shift in economic and environmental solutions

Guerin, M & Foley, R (2019), Natural capital: a paradigm shift in economic and environmental solutions, in Farm Policy Journal, vol. 16, no. 3, Spring 2019, pp. 4-14, Surry Hills, Australia.

The role of primary producers is changing.
Throughout history, farmers have been the backbone of society, providing two essential needs – food and clothing.
But increasingly, they are being required to undertake the heavy lifting on a range of environmental issues, both actual and perceived. These include climate change, reef degradation, reduced biodiversity, soil erosion, and deforestation.
Government effort on these issues has focused on imposing ever-harsher and more complex laws enforced by punitive penalties on primary producers. This is despite significant evidence that external regulation is an expensive and onerous way of achieving minimum compliance, rather than effecting long-term behaviour change.
There must be a better way, one that achieves ecological as well as economic and social objectives. 
This article details collaborative research by AgForce, National Australia Bank (NAB), Aboriginal Carbon Foundation (AbCF) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) into the concept of natural capital and how it may offer a solution – if we can change the way we think of farming, agriculture, and natural resource management. 
It also details AgForce’s collaboration with the AbCF regarding the environmental, social and cultural values of carbon farming agribusinesses.


FPJ1603C - Williams et al (2019), Harmonisation of on-farm metrics for sustainability assessment of Australian agricultural industries

Williams, J, Smith, R, Ball, A, Reid, N & Kahn, L (2019), Harmonisation of on-farm metrics for sustainability assessment of Australian agricultural industries, in Farm Policy Journal, vol. 16, no. 3, Spring 2019, pp. 15-22, Surry Hills, Australia.

A growing number of national and international sustainable agriculture certification/recognition schemes, often referencing Best Management Practices (BMPs), are being developed with the aim of improving agricultural practices and recognising and rewarding land managers who can demonstrate steps towards minimising their environmental footprint. This development is being driven largely by environmentally conscious consumers and social license considerations, and the need to build resilient production systems in the face of increasing climate variability. However, with an increasing number of recognition and compliance schemes comes greater complexity in measurement and reporting. In many instances, metrics are not independently scientifically validated, resulting in consumer scepticism in the messages being communicated. In order to decrease complexity and increase buy-in, there is a need for a harmonised, national reporting scheme for sustainable agriculture recognition that sits across industries, is scientifically validated, aligns with international conventions and provides consumers with an independent and trustworthy data source for product comparison. 


FPJ1603D - Admassu, S, Fox, T & McRobert, K (2019), Lessons from the UK on ecosystem services models

Admassu, S, Fox, T & McRobert, K (2019), Lessons from the UK on ecosystem services models, in Farm Policy Journal, vol. 16, no. 3, Spring 2019, pp. 24-34, Surry Hills, Australia.

Payment for ecosystem services (PES) as both reward and incentive to those who invest in care for the environment is becoming a popular mechanism to protect biodiversity and natural environments throughout the world. Australian agriculture has a strong focus on natural resource management through government-supported programs, but a mature market for buying and selling ecosystem services has yet to be established. While food production is a public good, agriculture in Australia is an industry and changes made to farming systems must be supported within the business model of the sector. PES schemes such as those established in the United Kingdom (UK) offer frameworks to conserve the environment and simultaneously offer new sources of farm-based income. Lessons from the UK schemes show that a clear value proposition for both buyer and seller of the services backed by robust data are necessary for success.


FPJ1603E - Eckard, R & White, R (2019), Are grazing systems inherently carbon neutral

Eckard, R & White, R (2019), Are grazing systems inherently carbon neutral?, in Farm Policy Journal, vol. 16, no. 3, Spring 2019, pp. 35-41, Surry Hills, Australia.

Over the past 20 years both the physical and policy implications of climate change have started to impact agriculture in Australia. The COP21 Paris agreement committed countries to target net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. In response, a small number of graziers claim their systems to be carbon (C) positive, due to the extensive C captured by their pastures, indicating a misunderstanding of the fate of C in grazing systems. In permanent grassland systems carbon dioxide (CO2), captured from the atmosphere in pastures, cycled through the soil, animal and humans, is largely returned to the atmosphere. However, a small amount of methane (CH4) is also produced, which has been shown to warm the atmosphere. Carbon storage in soils and trees, while both important for sustainability, cannot accumulate indefinitely and therefore cannot offset livestock emissions indefinitely. A globally collaborative research effort is now focused on providing the livestock industries with cost-effective technologies to reduce enteric CH4, essential to achieving low emission or C-neutral livestock production systems.


FPJ1603F - Craik, W (2019), Farmers and environmental law: the EPBC review

Craik, W (2019), Farmers and environmental law: the EPBC review, in Farm Policy Journal, vol. 16, no. 3, Spring 2019, pp. 42-51, Surry Hills, Australia.

In March 2018, Dr Wendy Craik was engaged to undertake a targeted review for the Australian Government to find ways to better support farmers under the national environment law. The review of Interactions between the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 and the agriculture sector was released in June 2019. 
The EPBC Act promotes the ecologically sustainable use of natural resources and provides a regulatory framework to manage and protect matters of national environmental significance. The review was designed to advise on improving the implementation of the Act for agriculture while maintaining environmental standards, and to help farmers understand when the legislation applies to their activities and how to manage its often complex requirements.
In general, the review found there is a lack of clarity around the overarching objectives of regulation of agricultural activity under the Act, and that the Act is not meeting its regulatory objectives in relation to the sector. Existing environmental impact assessment processes are viewed as unclear and needlessly complicated, inconsiderate of the realities of agriculture, and excessively time-consuming and costly for farmers who engage with them. The Act is viewed as a largely punitive tool, implementation of which is not resulting in improved data, collaboration or the promotion of a view that Australia’s environmental assets are of real value to the agriculture sector.
The report by Dr Craik will be considered as part of the planned independent statutory review of the EPBC Act, which is due to commence in October 2019. The following article is an extract of the report including the foreword and executive summary.


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