The Australian Greens will:
We want our agricultural communities to thrive, but because of our short-sighted politicians and the power of agribusiness we are failing to build an agricultural sector that can weather the shocks and the changes that are fast approaching.
Whether it be the effects of climate change, desertification and soil erosion, or changing consumer preferences, we need to ensure that Australian agriculture has an outlook that goes beyond the next political cycle.
Instead of the status quo of maximising profits to big business in the short term , our plan will give farmers and consumers genuine choice and control over the food that we grow and eat, and ensure that our agricultural industry is protected well into the future.
ONE: REAL SUPPORT FOR DROUGHT AFFECTED COMMUNITIES
The frequency and intensity of drought is growing in a warming world. In the last year alone we’ve seen the awful impact of drought on communities in Western Queensland, in the Murray-Darling Basin, from Eastern Gippsland to across the Nullabor in South West WA.
But instead of delivering a real strategy for drought affected Australia, the Coalition have created a policy that gives the Agriculture Minister the ability to pork barrel resources with very minimal safeguards, all while gutting funding that had already been allocated to the NDIS and regional infrastructure.
That’s why the Greens would create a real drought fund that doesn’t raid the NDIS, while providing short-term relief and helping farmers adapt to our changing climate. It would deliver $100 million a year in real, sustainable and independently assessed grants to communities and business, grants that would improve water security and soil quality and better insulate farms and communities from the impact of drought.
TWO: GREEN FARMING
Australia needs a viable, long-term agricultural industry. But to have it we need to ensure that agriculture and the environment aren’t at odds with each other. Carefully directed environmental subsidies - to encourage farmers to reduce fertiliser use, improve land productivity and reduce water consumption - help ease pressure for land clearing and improve gross yields per hectare. It’s better for the farmer, it’s better for the planet. The Greens will make available $80 million a year in direct agricultural subsidies for farmers to improve per-hectare yield without degrading the land.
We will also fund a large scale rollout of the Whole of Paddock Rehabilitation Program. The Whole of Paddock Rehabilitation Program is an Australian-first, developed by farmers in conjunction with Greening Australia. It’s an entirely voluntary program that allows farmers to repair degraded or cleared paddock over 10 hectares of size through the planting of a broad range of native trees and shrubs in widely spaced belts across the land. The paddock is ‘rested’ by excluding livestock for a period of five years. Unlike other land restoration programs, this involves no land lost to production. Instead, payments are made to farmers in return for ‘renting’ the land for five years while a mix of native trees and shrubs are established.
Land restored through the program is more fertile, healthier, and demonstrates higher yields than its pre-restoration state. Farmers report ewes with lambs actively seeking out windbreaks created by the landscape restoration, and the lambing percentage for twinning ewes has increased by over 140 per cent.
THREE: INCREASED FUNDING FOR LANDCARE
The Liberal National Government’s cuts to Landcare have put the program under immense stress. The National Landcare Program (NLP) supports vitally important work across Australia’s amazing landscapes, from helping small farmers develop new land management techniques, to providing grant funding for communities to play a bigger part in caring for the land they live on. Yet the Coalition Government has drastically cut funding to the program, undermining its vital work.
The Greens have been in the fight for Landcare funding for years - managing to secure an extra $100 million in 2016. Now we’ll fully restore this crucial program to health, increasing funding by $84 million a year over the course of the next Parliament. With extra funding, the NLP can provide for the productive and responsible use of our land and safeguard it for future generations
FOUR: FUNDING RESEARCH FOR A CLIMATE SMART FUTURE
Climate change is the largest single crisis facing our regions, and its impacts on our farming communities become more and more apparent by the month. It is outrageous that the Government’s agriculture white paper process did not include climate change in its terms of reference, and because of this the final paper paid only lip service to it. The Greens would empower the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to conduct a whole of sector review and begin planning for the range of climate scenarios that we are fast approaching.
The Greens would also create a Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, an RD&E agency which would focus on working on the ground with best practice farmers who are building the on-farm solutions for water efficiency, fertiliser efficiency, soil health, biodiversity retention and developing localised food production and sales. The centre would then provide the infrastructure to extend these best practices to farmers across the country.
FIVE: SUPPORTING CARBON FARMING, FARM FORESTRY AND REVEGETATION
The need to protect biodiversity and carbon stocks comes with many benefits and potential revenue streams for our farming community. Too often we see a false narrative of farmers vs the environment, when we know that native vegetation can improve water management, soil health and other environmental services to the benefit of both farmers AND the environment.
That’s why the Greens would restore integrity to the carbon farming initiative, allowing farmers to deliver genuine abatement. And we would rule out international carbon offsets, allowing Australia farmers to bid into carbon markets without having to compete with dodgy international carbon credits.
Finally, the ability of farms to provide plantation timber is significant. That’s why the Greens will also commit $3 million of seed funding to contribute to the establishment of a national farm forestry cooperative for farmers, to expand the potential for farm forestry to contribute to supply of plantation wood products.
SIX: A NATIONAL BAN ON ALL NEW UNCONVENTIONAL GAS PROJECTS
The rapid and destructive expansion of the unconventional gas (coal seam, shale and tight gas) industry across much of Australia demonstrates what happens when governments put big gas mining companies ahead of local communities, the environment and our long-term future.
We will always act to protect our groundwater, climate, precious farmland and regional communities. The Greens would implement a national ban on all new unconventional gas approvals or expansions to existing projects, and put an end to underground coal gasification.
SEVEN: ENSURING OUR FOOD IS SAFE
The existing pathways that our Government use to assess our food and the chemicals that go into growing them is broken. The integrity of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority has been compromised by its relocation, and many chemicals that sit on their books haven’t been assessed in decades.The ad-hoc nature of our current regime for chemical review, as demonstrated by the approach of the APVMA to community concerns about glyphosate, is clearly not up to the task of keeping our community and environment safe.
Because of this, the Greens would reintroduce the mandatory scheme for re-approval and re-registration of already registered pesticides and veterinary medicines, and establish a clear public interest voice advocating for consumers in both the APVMA and FSANZ.
EIGHT: TAKING BACK CONTROL OVER OUR FOOD SYSTEM
The Government is looking to deregulate genetic modification technology like CRISPR and other new breeding techniques, allowing them to be released into the Australian supply chain and ecosystem without any oversight. Experts from a number of academic institutions have called this change unnecessary, and the European Union has already ruled that these technologies must be regulated under the same criteria as existing genetic modification technology.
It is clear that these changes would put Australian exports, state based moratoriums and organic certifications at risk. The Greens will stand with farmers and ensure that new breeding techniques go through the same regulatory system as existing genetic modification technologies