National Soil Strategy

Budget 2021-22

Several new measures related to soil were announced at the 2021-22 federal Budget.

You can find the budget fact sheets and Portfolio Budget Statements at www.awe.gov.au/budget. For more information on the programs see below.

In 2020-21, the Australian Government, state and territory governments, the National Soils Advocate and the soil community developed the National Soil Strategy to secure and protect Australia’s soil for the future. It was released in May 2021.

The Australian Government has committed to a $214.9 million soil package of which $196.9 million is new funding through the 2021 – 22 Budget over 4 years to implement the National Soil Strategy and the associated Commonwealth Interim Action Plan.

This includes:

  • $5.9 million to implement the National Soil Strategy

The National Soil Strategy is Australia’s first national policy on soil and sets out how Australia will value, manage and improve its soil for the next 20 years.

The strategy highlights three overarching goals: (1) prioritise soil health, (2) empower soil innovation and stewards and (3) strengthen soil knowledge and capability.

The implementation of the Strategy includes the development of a National Action Plan by June 2022, in collaboration with the state and territory governments, industry, and the soil community. The Action Plan will help identify current programs across Australia that support Australia’s soil health and may help identify gaps where new funding and resources can be directed. Work on the National Action Plan will commence in July 2021.

  • A two-year National Soil Monitoring and Incentives Pilot Program will be trialled to improve our understanding of Australia’s soil condition and how to better manage it, assess the impact of land management practices on soil, assist farmers to improve their productivity and profitability, and better support farmers to participate in other programs such as the Emissions Reduction Fund.
  • This pilot program includes five key elements:
    • $2 million for a review of existing soil data to establish the quality, quantity and distribution of information across Australia and identify gaps in soil knowledge. The review will inform the scale and value of the incentives so that they can be targeted in a way that will capture the most useful soil information both for government and stakeholder objectives in a cost-efficient manner. To ensure this measure is completed quickly, the department will engage suppliers to assist with the review of the data by the end of September 2021.
    • $15 million to re-develop the Australian Soil Resource Information System (ASRIS) to improve its ability to store soil data, track and report trends and changes in soil health, and be used to monitor the impact of land management practices and environmental shocks over time. The enhancement of a publicly available and federated soil information platform will support decision makers to identify gaps and opportunities to manage and improve Australia’s soil assets.
    • $21 million to pay private and public entities to provide existing soil data to be incorporated into the redeveloped ASRIS. The data capture program will be informed by the soil data review and is expected to take place in the 2021-22 financial year.
    • $54.422 million over two years to encourage more farmers and land managers to undertake comprehensive soil testing in exchange for sharing their data with the program.
    • $18 million of existing funding from the National Landcare Program’s Smart Farms Small Grants initiative will be redirected to soil extension activities that encourage farmers to test their soil and help them interpret and act on results. The Soil Extension Services program is intended to ensure that land managers who opt-in to test their soil through the incentives program are provided with assistance from soil professionals to:
      • select appropriate testing sites
      • collect soil samples for testing
      • interpret the results in a manner that empowers them to access alternative revenue streams (for example, carbon and biodiversity markets)
      • make decisions about their land that protects the health of their soil and leads to increased productivity and resilience.

    The department is currently investigating options to engage soil extension officers as soon as possible.

  • $0.615 million to develop a National Land Management Practices Classification System.
    A National Land Management Practices Classification System will be developed, tested and implemented by ABARES over two years in consultation with key land management stakeholders. The classification system will categorise and explain different land management practices across the country and will help map and track management practices across the country and their effect on soil health. The new system will provide further detail on management practices, currently not captured in the current Australian Land Use and Management Classification System. Work on the classification system is already underway.
  • $1 million to enhance soil education and expertise
    A new accreditation in soil science will be developed to improve the knowledge base of land management advisors.
  • $20 million over four years for a Soil Science Challenge Grants Program
    The grants program will support researchers to address fundamental gaps in soil science and improve our understanding of how to better manage soil. The first grant application period is anticipated to open in the late 2021.
  • $67.0 million for the Food Waste for Healthy Soils Fund
    A fund to support the diversion of household and commercial food and garden organic waste (FOGO) from landfill to soil via the expansion of existing FOGO processing infrastructure and capacity.

Soil

Soil is vital to life on earth – soils are home to more than 25 per cent of our planet’s biodiversity (FAO 2020) and 95% of the world’s food comes from soil and soil organisms (FAO 2015a).

Soil provides essential ecosystem services that support and contribute to Australia’s economic, environmental, and social wellbeing, including food and fibre production; water storage, filtration and nutrient cycling; and carbon storage. Check out the National Soil Strategy for more information about the value of soil.

Australia has ancient soil that is typically low in organic matter and nutrients and are susceptible to erosion. A changing climate, increasing pressure to produce more food and fibre, and increasing population pressures, pose major challenges for the successful management of our fragile soil. While it is hard to accurately quantify the cost of soil erosion in Australia, the cost of dust storms alone in New South Wales is estimated at $9 million per year (Tozer and Leys 2013) More recently it has been estimated that about 33 per cent of global soil is degraded (FAO 2015b).

References

Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) 2020, ‘State of Knowledge of Soil Biodiversity - Status, challenges and potentialities, Report 2020’, Rome.

FAO 2015a, ‘Healthy soils are the basis for healthy food production’, Rome.

FAO 2015b, ‘Status of the World’s Soil Resource, main report, Rome.

Tozer, P., and J. Leys. 2013. Dust storms – What do they really cost? Rangeland Journal 35:131-142.

National Soils Advocate

A National Soils Advocate was announced in 2012—the first of its kind internationally—to work with individuals, governments, and organisations to improve soil management and soil health.

The need for a national focus

The responsibility for soil management in Australia sits mainly with state and territory governments. In 2019 the Prime Minister announced the Australian Government’s commitment to a national focus on soil. The need for a national strategy was endorsed by all states and territories to provide an opportunity for future collaboration and leadership on common soil goals, and to reaffirm the commitment of all governments to the importance of soils.

National Soil Strategy

In 2020-21, the Australian Government, state and territory governments, the National Soils Advocate and the soil community developed the National Soil Strategy to secure and protect Australia’s soil for the future. It was released in May 2021.

The strategy aims to address key soil priorities for Australia. The priorities have been identified through research and practical examples, government policies and programs, and by consulting with governments, industry, researchers, farmers and other land managers across Australia.

We are enabling farmers to increase their ability to build farm resilience by planning and maintaining environmental plantings to protect soil.

The National Soil Strategy will also support Australia’s domestic and international commitments towards a more sustainable future, such as the Australian agriculture sector’s goal of being a $100 billion industry by 2030, and the Australian Government’s priority of building resilience in our communities and adapting to a changing climate.
We are supporting the good work of other programs including the:

Download

Document Pages File size
National Soil Strategy PDF PDF Icon 60 11.9 MB
National Soil Strategy DOCX Word Icon 34 2.6 MB

If you have difficulty accessing these files, visit web accessibility for assistance.

Commonwealth Interim Action Plan

A Commonwealth Interim Action Plan has been developed to outline the Australian Government’s commitment to implementing the National Soil Strategy. The Interim Action Plan outlines high level actions that are being undertaken to support the Strategy. The actions in the plan will ensure that soil continues to contribute to agricultural productivity, environmental sustainability, and economic growth.

Engagement and collaboration will continue through the development of a National Action Plan, which will be delivered by June 2022.

Download

Document Pages File size
Commonwealth Interim Action Plan PDF PDF Icon 16 2.6 MB
Commonwealth Interim Action Plan DOCX Word Icon 15 1.1 MB

If you have difficulty accessing these files, visit web accessibility for assistance.

Learn more about National Soil Strategy and other measures funded in 2021-22 Budget.

Last reviewed: 9 July 2021
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