Agriculture Stewardship Package

Australia’s agriculture industry depends on a biodiverse and well-managed natural resource base. Well-managed agricultural landscapes will sustain high quality ecosystem services; such as healthy soils, clean air and water, soil carbon storage and biodiversity, drive agricultural industry productivity, profitability, and build resilience. Farmers, as stewards of the environment and as land managers are providing these benefits to the wider community

The Agriculture Stewardship Package aims to incentivise adoption of improved on-farm land management practices and develop a mechanism where farmers are rewarded for their efforts in delivering biodiversity and sustainability services that benefit their farms and the broader community. Environmental markets and other mechanisms, such as certification systems, that reward farmers for protecting and improving biodiversity, can provide a real way to diversify, and potentially boost, farm income.

The Australian Government is investing $34 million over four years (2018–19 to June 2023) to deliver an Agriculture Stewardship Package that comprises:

Overview

The four year (2018-19 to June 2023), $34 million Agriculture Stewardship Package comprises:

1. Agriculture Biodiversity Policy

  • Developing a national vision, to be shared by farmers and the community.
  • The aim will be to find alignment between the public and farm sector on what is biodiversity best practice.
  • The policy will deliver a common understanding of agriculture’s role in improving Australia’s biodiversity outcomes.

2. Agriculture Stewardship Pilot – Australian National University (ANU)

  • The Agriculture Stewardship Pilot comprises:
    • The Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Pilot Program; and
    • The Australian Farm Biodiversity Certification Scheme
  • Farmers participating in Agriculture Stewardship Pilot Program will be eligible to receive payments to:
    • protect, manage and enhance biodiversity through actively managing the vegetation, including such things as installing fencing, weeding, pest control and replanting or
    • build off carbon projects if they plant, manage and maintain environmental plantings, such as shelterbelts, choosing from a range of native plant species.
  • The Pilot Program will focus on small and medium farm businesses, using tailored approaches to incentivise and support land management practice change.
  • The voluntary Australian Farm Biodiversity Certification Scheme will allow Australian farmers to showcase best practice natural resource management to restore and promote biodiversity – and to ensure these actions are recognisable by the community. This will ensure that consumers can be confident that Australian produce is being produced in the best environment possible and that farmers who provide biodiversity benefits can have the products from their farm certified in the marketplace.
  • The ANU is using a $3.4 million grant to lead the design and development of the technical eligibility, participation rules and processes and the measurement, reporting and verification framework for the pilot.
    • To avoid concerns about the agriculture industry designing a certification scheme for itself and developing certification standards and integrity of the Australian Farm Biodiversity Certification Scheme, this work will be independently led by the ANU in regard to developing the technical and scientific considerations.
  • Together, the Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Pilot Program and the Australian Farm Biodiversity Certification Scheme will increase market opportunities and increase revenue streams for farmers who provide genuine conservation outcomes.
  • On ground trials are expected to commence in 2021.

3. Australian Agricultural Sustainability Framework – National Farmers’ Federation (NFF)

  • The NFF was provided $4 million to consider the development of an Australian Farm Certification Scheme. They commissioned a report: Recognising On-farm Biodiversity Management by the Australian Farm Institute (AFI).
    • This included undertaking desktop and consultative research into existing verification schemes, sustainability and best management practices, both domestically and internationally, and determine their applicability in Australian agricultural systems.
  • The report found that that best results were likely to come from an overarching framework that connected and verified current and emerging programs, providing farmers with choice.
  • Based on the outcomes of this work, the NFF is now focussing on developing a framework or meta-standard for Australian agriculture sustainability.
  • This work will include:
    • delivering a meta-standard for agriculture sustainability, including considering any legal, privacy or other (e.g. tax) implications in delivering the meta-standard or for industry / farmers to adopt the meta-standard
    • working with agriculture-related organisations, such as rural research and development corporations, industry and private / not-for-profit companies, to incorporate and verify existing standards and schemes into and under a harmonised meta-standard
    • determining data and information needs to underpin the meta-standard’s success, including considering and addressing any gaps where applicable
    • considering market opportunities, and how the meta-standard could inform market-based decisions (e.g. the consumer at the supermarket shelf, trade opportunities, financing, etc) to ensure the meta-standard can deliver positive outcomes for farmers (e.g. premiums, increased market access, favourable interest rates, etc)
    • developing and delivering on a communications plan to engage with farmers, the broader industry and other relevant stakeholders, including articulating a robust value proposition to encourage participation.
  • The AFI report can be viewed at the National Farmers Federation website, a video summary of the report can be found at the Australian Farm Institute YouTube channel.

Enquiries on the Agriculture Stewardship Package can be made by email at agstewardship@awe.gov.au.

Last reviewed: 7 December 2020
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