Gov’t introduces new initiative for Australian farmers, fishers to ‘farm smarter’

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Clouds can be seen above farmland in Tasmania's northwest on the outskirts of Launceston June 4, 2014.
Clouds can be seen above farmland in Tasmania's northwest on the outskirts of Launceston June 4, 2014. Reuters/David Gray

A new program under the next phase of the Coalition government’s $1 billion National Landcare Program has been introduced, which will allow fishers, farmers and community groups to “farm smarter.” It seeks to support additional development of sustainable farming practices.

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce said the Smart Farms initiative includes small projects that can contribute real difference to a local community. Eligible organisations and individuals will receive grants that will help fishers, farmers and aquaculture operators to protect natural resources. It would not only contribute to improved productivity and farm-gate returns, but would also deliver benefits for the community.

“The Coalition government is backing Australia’s farmers who manage 61 percent, or well over half, of Australia’s landmass, to meet our national and global demand for food and fibre,” Joyce announced. Smart Farms and sustainable land managers will assist farmers, fishers, community and industry groups to further develop and share better land management practices. Doing so, he said, would strengthen their productivity, resilience and competitiveness.

The new program also includes projects that can deliver excellent value for money. The Cotton Research Development Corporation and Cotton Australia received just over $422,000 for an Innovation Grant from the current National Landcare Program for the project Sustainable Australian Cotton Production Supplying International Markets, in Narrabri, New South Wales.

The minister said the project has improved the industry’s web-based, best management practice platform, myBMP. It is said to be a vital tool that shows the industry’s improved farming practices as well as careful management of natural resources to the community. Joyce added that the project has been important in the development and integration of sustainability indicators to allow the local cotton industry to inflate into globally sustainable cotton markets.

Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister, Luke Hartsuyker, assured that farming and regional communities will still benefit from the investments of the government. He said there are three elements to the Smart Farms Program (Smart Farming Partnerships, Smart Farms Small Grants and Building Landcare Community and Capacity). Each will focus on improving soil, vegetation and biodiversity condition and support agricultural systems.

The program, Hartsuyker said, supports the sharing of knowledge and achievements while promoting community leadership. This would help farmers improve their productivity and better manage natural resources. Additional details about the Smart Farms Program are expected to be available on www.nrm.gov.au and on the National Landcare Program Facebook page.

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