The Australian Government has pledged $134m over six years to the National Landcare Program’s new Smart Farms initiative.
The aim of the program, launched in October 2017, is “to facilitate the development and adoption of sustainable farming practices”; the long-term goal is to better protect the nation’s natural resources, including soil, water vegetation and biodiversity.
Grants to eligible organisations and individuals will help farmers, fishers and aquaculture operators protect natural resources on their land, thereby benefiting the community and contributing to increased productivity and improved farm-gate returns.
Announcing the investment, former Deputy PM and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce said the federal government is “backing Australia’s farmers, who manage 61 percent, or well over half, of Australia’s land mass, to meet our national and global demand for food and fibre.
“Our farmers have an international reputation as sustainable land managers and Smart Farms will assist farmers, fishers, community and industry groups to further develop and share better land-management practices and therefore strengthen their resilience, competitiveness and productivity.”
The new program will include “small projects that can make a real difference to a local community and deliver excellent value for money”, Joyce said.
“For example, Cotton Australia and the Cotton Research Development Corporation 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, NSW’.
“The project has improved the industry’s web-based, best-management practice platform – myBMP – which is an important tool that incorporates and demonstrates to the community the industry’s improved farming practices and careful management of our natural resources.”
Smart Farms Program
There are three elements to the new Smart Farms Program:
Smart Farming Partnerships
The government will pump $60 million over six years into large, multi-year grants for collaborative projects with organisations to develop, trial and implement “new and innovative practices and tools that support uptake of sustainable agriculture practices across our agricultural, fishing, aquaculture and farm forestry industries”.
Smart Farms Small Grants
Another $50 million over six years will be invested in the Smart Farms Small Grants program, delivering grants of between $5,000 and $100,000 to projects developing and extending new tools and technologies to help farmers, fishers, foresters and regional communities adopt best-practice land management.
Landcare community and capacity-building
A further $24 million over six years will go towards supporting knowledge-sharing, the recognition of achievements in sustainable practice, and community leadership in adopting sustainable agricultural practices.
“The program supports the sharing of knowledge and achievements, whilst promoting community leadership which will help farmers boost their productivity and better manage natural resources,” Minister Hartsuyker said.
For further details on the Smart Farms Program visit the National Landcare Program website or Landcare Facebook page.