Vol. 13, No. 4, Summer 2016

Farm stewardship programs in Australia

The Summer 2016 edition of the Farm Policy Journal contains the two winning essays for the 2016 John Ralph essay competition, plus a selection of other meritorious entries. The quality of essays submitted was high this year and the four judges had a challenging task in selecting the winners. The topic of the essay competition this year was: Farm environmental stewardship programs are just subsidies in disguise and should not be adopted in Australia.

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Farm Environmental Stewardship Programs Are Not Just Subsidies in Disguise and Should Be Adopted in Australia... With Caution

Dean Ansell – Winner, John Ralph Essay Competition, Open Category

The winning essay in the open category – by Dean Ansell – initially points out that ordinary Australians are dependent on farmers for the food they eat and the clothes they wear and ultimately via their shopping preferences they decide about trade-offs between production and the environment. However, the lack of clear market signals about the environmental impacts of farming means that neither consumers nor farmers can be held accountable for these costs. Buy now

From Changing Attitudes to Changing Behaviours: Environmental Stewardship Payments to Farmers Through Market-Based Instruments

Brendan O’Keeffe – Winner, John Ralph Essay Competition, Novice Category

The winning entry in the novice category – by Brendan O’Keeffe – begins by highlighting how policies over the last 25 years have focused on rectifying past agricultural practices, with some success achieved in changing attitudes and farming practices. It reviews the evolving stages of natural resource policy in Australia, starting from the National Landcare Program and extending to the present day. It notes that all of these programs have had some impact on raising awareness and addressing land degradation and environmental issues. Buy now

Farm Environmental Stewardship Programs are Just Subsidies in Disguise and Should Not be Adopted in Australia

Heather Webb

Heather Webb expresses support for environmental stewardship programs in Australia as a direct environmental investment, but also to support rural livelihoods and to maintain food production. She points out that Australia has a relatively small taxpayer base relative to land area, which dictates a need for efficient and effective policies for the management of high value environment assets on private land. Webb argues that environmental stewardship programs can assist landholders to undertake profit-neutral conservation activities and compensate for any large transaction costs experienced by the land manager. Buy now

A New Farm Environmental Stewardship Program – Landscape Outcomes and Landholder Buy-In

David Walker

David Walker bases his essay around the problem of rapid loss of biodiversity since European settlement in Australia, both at an ecological community level and at an individual species level. He describes how our forefathers tried to replicate familiar agricultural systems of their lands of birth, which resulted in the dramatic loss of flora and fauna along with the fragmentation of native vegetation, land use and ownership. Walker suggests that stewardship programs would allow landholders the opportunity to provide a service that is seen as valuable to the wider Australian community, and in that respect is not different to farmers providing food and fibre to feed and clothe the community. Buy now

Farm Environmental Stewardship Programs are Just Subsidies in Disguise and Should Not be Adopted in Australia

Alexandra Grigg

Alexandra Grigg's essay reinforces how important biodiversity and strong ecosystems are for agricultural production. It then discusses the difference between subsidies and stewardship schemes, highlighting the benefits of the latter. Grigg raises the point that there is a significant gap between the value ecosystems provide to society and to landholders. Ecosystem services provide indirect public benefits to the wider community such as sequestering carbon, sustaining habitat for biodiversity, providing fresh water and job creation through natural resource management along with research and development. Buy now

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