Bio boost for farmers

By Country News

Farmers are set to receive incentives to improve biosecurity on farms in the wake of a number of scares at the nation’s borders.

The new program will see farmers receive incentives for projects that boost biodiversity and also incorporate a payment for carbon if appropriate.

The $30million pilot Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Program comes after 350000 items of biosecurity concern were intercepted last year, with products infected with African swine fever and foot and mouth disease seized at the border earlier this year.

Projects such as maintaining or enhancing remnant forest, regeneration of gullies or waterways, or mixed species native tree plantings will be considered under the program.

Additionally, $4million will go towards creating a national and internationally recognised biodiversity certification scheme to help biodiversity-friendly farmers get an extra premium for their product at the checkout and when they trade with other countries.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the market-based system had the potential to become a drought-proof income stream for some.

‘‘This program will be trialled across different commodities and in different regions and, if successful, I hope it will be expanded as national policy following the trial,’’ he said.

‘‘An on-farm biodiversity policy and methodology will need to be developed and we’ll be consulting with Australian National University and farm groups on this.

‘‘Farmers are already making money from carbon payments and in the future we could potentially see farmers receiving payment for both biodiversity and carbon benefits from the same project.

‘‘Farmers should be rewarded for having plants and animals on their farm, not penalised through banning them using that land and offering no compensation.’’

The NFF will help develop the certification scheme to be included with the program.