Thursday, 3 December 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management: Will the minister outline to the House how the Morrison-McCormack government is assisting farmers to maintain and improve soil health through the national soil strategy, which will be key to supporting our economic comeback from the COVID-19 recession?
I thank the member for Cowper for his question, and I acknowledge the diverse and rich agricultural contribution the people of Cowper make. On Saturday it is World Soil Day, and the importance of that, particularly to us here in Australia, is that 95 per cent of our food comes from soils. Soil health is imperative not only in supporting our $63 billion agricultural industry but also in supporting our ambitious goal of $100 billion in agriculture by 2030. That's why the federal government created a national soil strategy, currently led by the Hon. Penelope Wensley AC, former Governor of Queensland. We continue to work, as part of our Delivering Ag2030 plan, on the implementation of that strategy, and we're doing that with real money. There is real money for the CRC on High Performance Soils. There's over $40 million being put into that to give our farmers the research and the technology to be able to understand and improve soil health and get better productivity and profitability. We have $34 million in a biodiversity stewardship fund. ANU have just completed the methodology around that, and we will be looking to move into pilots early in the New Year. That's also about rewarding farmers for the custodianship, the environmental stewardship, of their land and making sure that they can market their product with the acknowledgement of all their hard work. We've also got $14 million that the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction is putting in to create a measurement for soil carbon. This will be a game changer, particularly if we can get it under $3 a hectare, that will change farming practises and it will also go to the productivity of our farms and how we manage them. It has significant impacts in carbon abatement and in reducing our carbon footprint. That is all with science, all with technology. That's a significant road ahead.
We've also got $86 million going into eight innovation hubs that will intersect with our CRCs, our research development corporations and our universities. This will make sure that we are getting closer to those people who we need to use this science, our farmers. This will be out in the regions, in regional universities, because if we're going to make a difference, we need our farmers to adopt this type of technology. The way they do that is to be able to see, feel and touch it, and that's why we are going to the regions to do it.
This morning the Parliamentary Friends of Soil, led by the Deputy Prime Minister and the member for Barton, poignantly announced an award in honour of former Governor-General Michael Jeffery. It is an award for soil health that may be awarded to any farmer, land manager or educator. I have to acknowledge the work that Major General Jeffery has undertaken. He has been a strong, passionate advocate for soil health since his retirement as our Governor-General. He's a distinguished Australian who has done so much for our nation in so many fields, but this is a passion that he and his family hold dear, and he has done a significant job for Australian agriculture.