The Australian agricultural sector has long enjoyed a global trading reputation as a world leader for environmentally aware production practices and Australian farmers have historically taken pride in stewardship of the land.
Australia’s agricultural industries are seeking management solutions to assist them in preserving and improving biodiversity while remaining profitable, increasing productivity and meeting growing demand.
A number of systems, schemes and approaches (‘schemes’) have been developed globally and domestically to enable landholders to demonstrate the dual public services they deliver – high quality food production combined with ecosystem services. Significant variability exists between these systems and in the credibility and trust they carry for both their participants and customers.
Through Australian Government funding, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is developing an overarching framework or meta-standard for biodiversity and sustainability stewardship. This will deliver a framework for assessing, verifying, benchmarking, connecting and improving existing (and emergent) schemes.
Such an approach will be flexible and allow for commodity and geographic differences in biodiversity priorities, targets and management strategies. The approach would also recognise existing systems and the parallel and additional market benefits associated with the delivery by participants of multiple sustainability outcomes.
The development of the Australian Agricultural Sustainability Framework is occurring across six elements:
• Element 1: Develop the Australian Agricultural Sustainability Framework
• Element 2: Align financial, incentive and accounting systems with the Framework
• Element 3: Assess and verify existing schemes/industry programs against the Framework
• Element 4: Align measurement framework projects
• Element 5: Communication and engagement to ensure acceptance of the Framework
• Element 6: Legal and policy analysis
The NFF engaged Schuster Consulting Group to undertake Element 3.
Element 3 will evaluate various individual schemes (etc.) against the the Australian Agricultural Sustainability Framework and assess the ability of participants of those schemes (i.e. producers/landholders) to report against Framework attributes.
In doing so, alignment of the schemes with the Framework will be determined along with gaps between the schemes and the Framework. Pathways for improving the ability of producers and landholders to better report against Framework metrics will also be identified.