The Hon. Warren Truss MP (until recently Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestery) gave a speech to the Victorian Rural Press Club in March in which he talked about the recently released ‘Agriculture and Food Industry Stocktake’ and some of the issues facing agriculture in Australia. The speech was big on the impact of changing community values on agriculture including the impact of campaigning by animal rights and environmental groups.
The Minister said that the Stocktake was a starting point for wide-ranging discussion under a newly formed Reference Group. This group was to report back to the Minister by the end of the year with a view to developing a “comprehensive policy framework to build, secure and protect Australian Agriculture”.
The Reference Group has since put out a fairly boring position paper which is very different in content to the Minister speech. The paper is apparently intended “to help focus the discussion”.
Part D of this paper is about natural resource management and seems to promote a lot of ideas that have been popular with bureaucrats in both government and the agripolitics for some years now.
It suggests that ‘stewardship payments’could be a ‘market based mechanism’ for paying farmers for public good conservation.
The position paper suggests that “farmers be paid for their output of environmental services such as biodiversity (for example, the management of wetlands for migratory bird habitats), improved air and water quality and other environmental and public health benefits. To be feasible, incomes from delivery of environmental services would need to at least offset any reductions in earnings from traditional agricultural enterprises that result from changed management practices”.
I know a fair bit has been written about this. But I fail to see how ‘the market’ could effectively operate given government bureaucrats (or government appointed committees) are likely to decide the terms and conditions and have all the money.
I would be interested in readers of this blog providing me with examples and/or arguments that challenges my current thinking.
I intend to make a submission to the reference group that will include some discussion of this issue.
There is more information at http://www.agfoodgroup.gov.au/tor.html.