We must act on soil health

We must act on soil health

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader Michael McCormack.

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader Michael McCormack.


Joining the dots to grow our most valuable natural asset.


We've golden soil and wealth for toil. Indeed we do - and we ought to be and we are doing everything we can to ensure that fertile soil is given the best opportunity to ensure we maximise our potential as a nation.

Australia has been blessed with wonderful leadership on the issue of maintaining and improving our soils.

Our soils are a fundamental national asset underpinning our farm productivity, indeed our national economy. They're the basis of our world class foods and fibres that we use every day.

Governors-General have been willing to help tackle the issues at hand. This is helping elevate the issue to where it belongs, high on our national priorities.

The Hon Michael Jeffery AC AO CVO MC continues today to raise public awareness, advocating for healthy soil, water and vegetation to the benefit of all Australians. This has included more than five years as Australia's National Soil Advocate.

The overarching principle of the National Advocate's appointment was that Australia's soil, water and vegetation are key natural, national, strategic assets and must be managed in an integrated way across the continent.

Today I am delighted to announce Major General Michael Jeffery has been reappointed to this important role, so that we can continue to step up when it comes to soil management.

The Government will also provide $2 million over 4 years to support the invaluable work of Soils for Life.

Soils for Life is an Australian non-profit organisation dedicated to encouraging adoption of regenerative landscape management. They support the growing number of innovative farmers and land managers who are successfully regenerating their landscapes while maintaining or increasing their production.

The Liberal and Nationals Government believes in the strategic importance of this work. For example, we're also funding work to develop nationally agreed, reliable bases for measuring and mapping ground cover across the world's largest island continent.

We're backing the Australian Collaborative Land Evaluation Program helping ensure farmers, scientists and policymakers can access the best available information and tools. And we've funded CSIRO to partner with farmer groups and others to deliver practical advice on best options to boost production in cropping paddocks and pastures.

Allied with this is a recognition that reliable water resources, not least in regions west of the Great Dividing Range and across Northern Australia, are critical as we work to build our $60 billion farm industries into a sustainable $100 billion industry sector.

That's why I've announced a National Water Grid, to remove the petty politics and to actually get dams or weirs built, lengthened, strengthened, heightened - whatever it takes to deliver reliable water and help "insure" against future droughts. It's why I'm so pleased we have injected another $500 million into the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund - now $1.3 billion - to accelerate infrastructure projects that will deliver new and affordable water, enhance water security and underpin regional economic growth.

Times of drought - and often the floods that follow - can mean soil quality deteriorates; what's left may be blown away - all degrading our soil resources. There is always more we could be doing to anticipate and address this destruction in our nation of droughts and flooding rains.

My recent visits to drought-affected Gippsland reminded me of just how severe soil erosion can be. "Mounding" - a build-up of top soil blown against fences - had occurred. Recovery can take many years.

In his report to Government late 2017, Major General Jeffery made it clear many regions across the world face substantial soil, water, food and nutrition challenges. He wrote that more than 30 per cent of the world's land mass is moderately to highly degraded due to erosion, salinisation, compaction, acidification, hot fires and chemical pollution.

Consistently, Australians are saying that together we must address declining levels of soil carbon, increasing acidification and loss of soil and nutrients from erosion. Major General Jeffery made a 10-fold set of recommendations on which this Government continues to work.

And he has made it clear Australian is positioned to be a world leader in meeting the world's Sustainable Development Goals for land and soils.

It's a big job. But we're getting on with it. Government and industry must work as closely together as we possibly can to preserve our soil resources - in fact, to deliver even better soils to coming generations. We're doing just that.

We can, we must and we will do more regarding our soils so that we can advance Australia fair.


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