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Program 1.1 Tackling climate change - Australia's Farming Future

Program objective

The objective of this program is to equip primary producers to adapt and adjust to climate change while increasing productivity.

Achievements

  • Contributed to the development of policy on the role of the agriculture and forestry industries in reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Provided $7.7 million for demonstration of adaptation and emissions management techniques through the second round of the Climate Change Research Program.
  • Provided 11 924 producers with FarmReady Reimbursement Grants for participation in training and development activities to build their capacity to respond to climate change, and the number of approved courses available almost doubled to 574.
  • Paid Transitional Income Support to 596 farmers experiencing financial difficulties who were outside the Exceptional Circumstances declared areas.

Supporting climate change mitigation policy

The department continued work to inform policy and legislation on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the agriculture and forestry industries. In consultation with the sector, the department examined the potential impacts of carbon markets, including the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

The department also participated in international climate change negotiations, which considered appropriate treatment for the sector in a post-Kyoto agreement and options to reduce emissions consistent with maintaining food production.

Australia's Farming Future

This was the second year of Australia's Farming Future, an initiative to equip primary producers to respond to the physical, social and economic impacts of climate change. The initiative has three broad elements: climate change adaptation, climate change adjustment and climate change research.

Supporting adaptation to climate change

Through the Climate Change Adaptation Partnerships Program, the department delivered FarmReady Reimbursement Grants, FarmReady Industry Grants and support for community network and capacity building.

Climate change training

FarmReady continued to build the capacity of primary producers to adapt and adjust to climate change through training and skills development. The program supports participation in approved courses aimed at improving risk, planning and business management skills, and increasing adoption of new techniques and best practice.

Demand for FarmReady Reimbursement Grants remained strong. The department received more than 16 400 pre-approval applications and paid more than 11 900 reimbursements. At the end of the financial year, there were 574 approved courses in nine key learning areas, almost double the number available at June last year.

Increasing industry self-reliance and preparedness

The second round of FarmReady Industry Grants provided $2.5 million for 18 projects enabling members of industry organisations, farming groups and natural resource management groups to develop strategies for managing climate change impacts.

Community Networks and Capacity Building

The Community Networks and Capacity Building component of Australia's Farming Future targets youth, women, Indigenous Australians and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Two projects focusing on people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds received funding totalling $0.456 million.

In March 2010, the government agreed to the second round of the Recognising Women Farmers grants and the Next Gen Farmers grants, providing $1.5 million for 33 projects. These grants supported activities to build the leadership and representative capacity of women and young people. A further $0.59 million was also provided for 14 out-of-round proposals.

Leadership capacity is also being fostered through sponsorships enabling up to three people each year to complete the Australian Rural Leadership Program offered by the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation. The government has provided funding for three years from 2010. In April 2010, the Australian Rural Leadership Program announced the department's sponsorships for Course 17. Sponsorships will be available to an Indigenous Australian, a person from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, and a woman who is involved in agriculture, fisheries or forestry.

Other support for women and young people included major sponsorship of the Rural Women's Awards of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (see case study on page 39) and $0.175 million to the Primary Industries Education Foundation, which provides information and resources to schools to promote knowledge about primary industries and encourage more students to pursue careers in primary industries.

Raising awareness

The department developed and delivered a communication strategy and engaged with primary producers and their communities, with the aim of increasing the uptake of assistance and opportunities offered through the program, and promoting adoption of new practices and approaches.

Supporting adjustment to climate change

The Climate Change Adjustment Program helps primary producers in financial difficulty due to the effects of climate change or drought to consider their future in farming, and to either better manage the impacts on their farm or transition from farming.

In 2009-10, the program provided 969 farmers (including Transitional Income Support Program recipients) with grants of up to $5500 for professional advice and training. Rural financial counsellors worked with 579 Transitional Income Support recipients to develop an action plan for managing the impacts of climate change and improving their farm's long-term prospects.

Assisting the transition

The Transitional Income Support Program provided assistance to 596 farmers in serious financial difficulty. This assistance is available for up to 12 months and paid at a rate equivalent to the Centrelink NewStart Allowance. The program has been extended until 30 June 2011 as part of the 2010-11 Budget.

Tackling climate change through research

The Climate Change Research Program (CCRP) encourages the development of innovative research and on-farm demonstrations to provide practical options for farmers to reduce emissions, adapt to climate change and increase productivity.

The CCRP funded large-scale collaborative projects involving a range of organisations, including research providers, industry groups, universities and state governments. Through five sub-programs the government invested in research focusing on soil carbon, biochar, and methane and nitrous oxide emissions, as well as climate change adaptation and demonstration initiatives. This has resulted in 50 projects and a total investment of approximately $120 million (including partner contributions).

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

The Reducing Emissions from Livestock Research Program develops practical on-farm options to reduce methane emissions from livestock. Approximately $28 million has been invested in the program by all partners. This has resulted in progress towards defining high and low methane traits in Angus cattle and development of a cost-effective device to measure methane.

The government is also working with numerous organisations on the Nitrous Oxide Research Program to develop a national research system for measuring nitrous oxide emissions from Australia's agricultural soils. The $10.8 million program has completed data collection on nitrous oxide emissions from soils, using automated monitoring systems at several sites across Australia. Farm systems being researched include sugar cane, cropping, dairy and cotton.

Dr Fiona Robertson and Ivanah Oliver take samples to measure soil carbon at the Department of Primary Industries test facility at Hamilton, Victoria (Photo: DAFF)
Dr Fiona Robertson and Ivanah Oliver take samples to measure soil carbon at the Department of
Primary Industries test facility at Hamilton, Victoria (Photo: DAFF)

Improving soil management

The $20 million (including partner contributions) Soil Carbon Research Program involves projects across Australia. It has developed a sampling and analysis methodology that will provide a nationally consistent assessment of soil carbon changes to farm management practices. This collaborative program began sampling in several areas across Australia in 2009-10 and will continue until 2011-12.

Biochar

The Biochar Research Program draws together leading researchers in Australia in the areas of biochar, bioenergy, soil science, emissions management and life-cycle assessment. This national effort to address key aspects of biochar production and land use application in Australian agriculture has received $1.4 million from the CCRP. The chemical and physical characteristics of more than 70 biochars have been identified, and this information will form the basis of future experiments within the program.

Alternative tools, technology and techniques

The Adaptation Research Program is a nationally coordinated package of 10 projects and includes collaboration from state departments, industry and research bodies. The projects will help primary producers develop sustainable and resilient production systems to adapt to a changing climate. The projects, with $11 million in CCRP funds, are now established in all states and the Northern Territory under six theme areas: innovative climate ready crops, cropping management systems, industry opportunities, perennial horticulture, livestock systems and fishery systems.

Demonstration

Funding of $7.7 million was provided for on-farm processor demonstration projects to support research under way through the CCRP. The projects are analysing how combinations of best practices and new technologies can be incorporated into current business models to provide farmers with the flexibility to respond to climate change. The projects will target particular areas of industry, such as dairy, cropping and food processing.

Deliverables and key performance indicators

Table 3 Program 1.1-deliverables
Deliverable 2009-10 target 2009-10 achievement
Australia's Farming Future-Climate Change Adaptation Partnerships Program
Deliver FarmReady Reimbursement Grants 2700 grants 8900 grants
Award FarmReady Industry Grants projects 30 grants 18 grants
Support target groups (women, young people, Indigenous Australians and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds) through CNCB activities 20 projects 40 projects
Develop and implement communications strategy Communication strategy implemented Communication strategy implemented
Australia's Farming Future-Climate Change Adjustment Program
Maintain the number of Advice and Training Grant customers who complete an Action Plan 95% 97%
Rural financial counsellors manage Advice and Training Grant case-managed customers 100% 100%
Australia's Farming Future-Climate Change Research Program
Undertake collaborative large-scale research projects with cross-sectoral application involving partnerships between providers and farmers Minimum of 12 projects/packages 50 projects

Table 4 Program 1.1-key performance indicators
Key performance indicator 2009-10 target 2009-10 achievement
Maintain delivery of high-quality, research-based outputs 100% 100%
Maintain awareness of, and access to, options to manage the impact of climate change and reduce emissions 100% 100%
Maintain uptake of changed farm practices and business management strategies as a result of planning for the impacts of climate change 100% 100%

Outlook for 2010-11

Australia's Farming Future will continue to provide research and development through the CCRP, support training through the FarmReady program, build community networks and capacity to manage climate change, and support adjustment advice and assistance for those who choose to leave farming.

Transitional Income Support has been extended for 12 months until 30 June 2011 as part of the 2010-11 Budget. Farmers in serious financial difficulty will continue to access short-term income support to help meet daily living expenses.

The department will work with the agricultural and forestry sectors on developing options and policy to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions while also encouraging production growth and food production.

Women in agriculture

Minister Burke with the national finalists of the 2010 RIRDC Rural Women's Awards.
Minister Burke with the national winner and
runners up at the 2010 RIRDC Rural Women's
Awards sponsored by DAFF
(Photo: www.maff.gov.au)

Women make a valuable but often under recognised contribution to Australia's agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2006 census, more than 52 000 women identified themselves as farmers or farm managers.

The Rural Industries Research Development Corporation (RIRDC) estimates that women contribute nearly half of all primary industry input into the Australian economy. This amounted to nearly $1.05 billion in 2006 according to the census. Women also contribute to the overall viability of farming enterprises through off-farm work, estimated to be worth another $1.1 billion a year.

Despite this impressive contribution, women are generally under represented on management and board positions in agricultural businesses, including agricultural portfolio agencies. This has raised concerns that women are not being provided with adequate opportunities to contribute to and influence policy development.

The Community Networks and Capacity Building (CNCB) program was developed as part of the Australian Government's Australia's Farming Future initiative. It is designed to strengthen productivity in primary industries and make rural, regional and remote communities more resilient to a changing climate.

During the 2009-10 financial year, the CNCB program supported several national initiatives that recognise women's contribution to primary industries, including the RIRDC's Rural Women's Awards and its associated National Reunion Forum, and the Australian Rural Leadership Program. Women now hold over 40 percent of all director positions on the boards of the rural statutory research and development corporations, up from 16 percent in 2007.

The CNCB also includes the Recognising Women Farmers (RWF) grants, which provides funding to support activities that help build women's leadership and representative capacities in primary industries. Over the past two financial years about $4.25 million has been provided to women's projects through this program.

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