28 November 2022
Tasmanian farmers work toward sustainable production
Tasmanian farmers understand the need for sustainable production.
They have always understood this need, and have been adapting and adjusting to ensure they can keep producing food, fibre and pharmaceuticals for the world.
This is seen through the genesis of Landcare launched nationally in 1989, effectively joint recognition from environmental groups that farmers have long been playing a vital role in environmental sustainability. This has also more recently been encapsulated in the Dairy industry Sustainability Framework and progressed under NFF’s Australian Agriculture Sustainability Framework; all of which have farmers at the core, demonstrating why farmers look after their key asset long-term - their farm as an investment in the future.
I can remember over thirty years ago planting trees on my parent's property in Western Victoria and the effort that they went to plan how to manage the whole property. This included planting trees to reduce areas of salt, fencing waterways and putting in off stream watering points to reduce erosion (the stock did better with lower salinity water as well).
These efforts have progressed across the sector, with improved fertiliser management, shelter belts, adapting farm management practices to viably operate in extreme and changing weather patterns All of which helps to make farming businesses more sustainable.
Importantly however, these initiatives have been done not only in the context of a sustainable environment, but sustainable businesses. This is critical as we cannot be environmentally sustainable if we are not economically viable, sustainability is an all-encompassing operating practice, not just a statement.
This presents a challenge to Tasmania’s farmers. We have all been working towards more sustainable farms, but when actions have already been taken due to the desire to do the right thing which predate targets such as reductions in methane emissions from 2020 levels, the level of investment to achieve these targets when the low hanging fruit is already captured is significant. The industry has already proactively focussed on evidence based solutions, for example as demonstrated by the dairy industry in the development of a carbon calculator, now on its 5th version, continuously upgrading it to capture a more accurate and detailed picture.
This challenge is only made greater with the market conditions we are
all currently experiencing, with a combination of high input costs and
natural events making sustainable farming operations increasingly
What is a sustainable future?
This is the big question. The TFGA fully supports the need to ensure a sustainable future for the world, however this needs to be done in a way that ensures our farmers can continue to feed us, put clothes on our back, provide timber for our homes and medicine to keep us healthy.
Our environmental stewardship is impressive and needs to be recognised and attributed.
We want to make sure that investment in research and technology continues to be made, so that farmers can continue to confidently adapt, without bearing an exorbitant economic burden.
Tasmania is uniquely placed to play a key role in this with abundant natural assets and advantages such as renewable energy. We just need to make sure we find a way to recognise and value the contributions already made when figuring out how we continue to improve our environmental footprint, recognising that Tasmania is the only Australian state to have consistently achieved net zero emissions.