A NEW $134 million initiative to enhance sustainable farming practices is part of a government program that brings communities together, at a time when the world wants to “tear people apart” says Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Mr Joyce announced the Smart Farms program yesterday at Tamworth in his New England electorate which falls under the federal Coalition’s $1.1 billion allocation to the National Landcare Program.
The revelation was welcomed by National Farmers’ Federation President Fiona Simson who said the new program was an important investment towards a more sustainable farm sector.
Mr Joyce said the other good thing about Landcare was that it draws together people across the political spectrum and brings people together within a community.
“Decent people doing decent things for a common purpose for the betterment of the community,” he said.
“Today there are so many things and so many issues out there that want to tear people apart so it’s great to be part of something that actually draws people together and it shows the positive and better angels, in what people do,” he said.
“My primary driver is small groups – a big part of what Landcare does is community based.
“There are so many things out there today that are out there to sort of tear us apart and I like to concentrate on issues that bring us back together again.”
Mr Joyce said the $134m program would be “part and parcel of how Landcare does its job” and would be broken into three parts.
Smart Farming partnerships will deliver $60m over six years for large multi-year grants for projects, with organisations working in partnership to develop, trial and implement new and innovative practices and tools to support uptake of sustainable agriculture practices.
Mr Joyce said that aspect of the new program would provide smart farm small grants for projects like those in Western NSW to build fencing to protect farms against wild dogs where he said there’d been “massive success”.
He said controlling the spread of feral pest animals also helped with re-generating native fauna and other native animals; some previously believed to have been extinct.
The second aspect of the program will allocate $50m over six years in small grants of between $5000 and $100,000 to develop and extend new tools and technologies that help farmers adopt best practice land management.
And the third aspect of the program will deliver $24m over six years to support sharing of knowledge and achievements and community leadership, for adopting sustainable agricultural practices.
Ms Simson said the Smart Farms program would support the promotion and adoption of best practices that improve the condition of soil, native vegetation and biodiversity but also, importantly it would improve productivity and profitability.
“This sort of investment helps further Australia’s global reputation as a source of safe and sustainable food and fibre,” she said.
"The resources provided under the National Landcare Program, along with the investment made by industry and individual farmers, helps us not only talk the talk when it comes to sustainability – but also walk the walk.
“The program will provide opportunities for groups large and small to help farmers improve their sustainability.
“This includes small local grower groups, trial groups, sustainable farming practice groups, Landcare groups and larger industry organisations.
“We look forward to seeing projects funded that harness the knowledge, experience and networks of agriculture, natural resource management, science, and conservation organisations to promote positive change.
“We strongly encourage groups large or small to put forward their project ideas in the upcoming grant rounds.
“Ultimately, the success of this investment will depend on the quality of projects that are put forward for funding.”
Mr Joyce said the Coalition government was backing Australia’s farmers who managed 61 per cent, or well over half, of Australia’s landmass, to meet national and global demand for food and fibre.
He said an example of small project funding was more than $422,000 allocated to Cotton Australia and the Cotton Research Development Corporation for an innovation grant from the current National Landcare Program for a project that highlights the sector’s sustainability practices, through the use of internet resources, that also aids export marketing.
Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister, Luke Hartsuyker, also welcomed the $134m Smart Farms program.
“The program supports the sharing of knowledge and achievements, whilst promoting community leadership which will help farmers boost their productivity and better manage natural resources,” he said.
Further details on the Smart Farms Program will be available on www.nrm.gov.au and on the National Landcare Program Facebook page over the next few weeks.