After almost six years in office, the Morrison Government has finally discovered the need to incentivise the adoption of best-practice land management techniques in the agriculture sector.
For two years following the 2013 election we waited for an Agriculture White Paper which was silent on the biggest issue facing the sector: the state of our natural resource base. Now, five minutes before calling an election, the Morrison Government is finally showing some interest.
The so-called Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Program appears to have admirable objectives, Labor supports the concept of biodiversity certification, a model we have championed for many years, but we will await the detail.
Labor again urges the Government to support the abolition of the Water Rule both for plantations and farm forestry in relation to forestrys interaction with Carbon Farming Initiative methodologies.
Initiatives designed to help farmers earn income from carbon sequestration and biodiversity-building farming methods should ideally be market-based but the former Labor Governments Caring for Country and Reef Rescue programs delivered direct grants to worthy on-farm projects. The Coalition Government abolished both programs and cut Landcare funding following the 2013 election.
Labor is concerned to ensure the Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Program is not yet another National Party pork barrelling exercise. Methodologies must be robust, additional and grant funding should be subject to a competitive tender arrangement rather than political whim.
We cannot achieve our aspirations for Australias agriculture sector without a deeper and more meaningful focus on our natural resource base.