Hi  Again,
               We have a fair bit of national news this week. A start has
been made on putting together  some material on "duty of care' - biodiversity
We hope you enjoyed Patrick Moore`s interview last week. This week we have
excepts from paper by a UK professor  Jules Pretty on the need to radically
change farming goals.
This weeks news & views are
(3) Queensland forest owners vigorously opposed to a Draft Private Forestry
Model Planning Framework
(4) Farmers could be unwittingly in breach of EPBC act
(5) NFF Water Taskforce
(6) Web site comments from David Phelps (DPI, Qld)
(7) Forestry salinity credits?
(8) NSW & Federal Ministers to discuss Namoi water trouble
(9) Producers want information on GM crops
(10) Qld Code of Practice for Biotechnology
(11) Major Aus food processor told to stay away from GMOs
(12) 150 Birds facing extinction in Australia
(13) Sheila Davis comments on conservation
(14) Bryan Hall (Rivers information group) comments on regulation methods  
(15) Lew Markey (DPI, Qld) comments on Salinity in the Brigalow Belt (QLD)
(16) Excerpts from Helen Carrell`s viewpoint (Alice Springs)
(17) Excerpts from an article from Jules Pretty
From LAWN (Land and water news)

The NSW Minister for Land and Water Conservation and Minister for Agriculture
Richard Amery has released draft compliance policies for natural resource
management in NSW.
The draft policies, which cover native vegetation and plantation legislation,
will be
available for public comment for the next two months. A further draft
policy in line with the new Water Management Act is also being developed and
be released within the next three months for public comment.
The new draft policies outline a range of actions involved in compliance,
the need to raise awareness of compliance requirements in the community, the
detecting and investigation of alleged legislative breaches, and the possible
responses available such as remediation orders or court action.
The compliance policies are available at
www.dlwc.nsw.gov.au/care/veg/compliance.or Click here Written
comments will be received
until 19th October 2001.
Also from LAWN (land and water news)

The Australian Forestry Standard Steering Committee and Technical Reference
Committee are seeking public comments and submissions on the recently
draft Australian Forestry Standard.
The standard has been sponsored by the three main industry bodies, the
Association of Forest Industries, the Plantation Timber Association of
and Australian Forest Growers.

Deadline for public comments and submissions is October 19, 2001. The draft
can be accessed at www.forestrystandard.org.au  or  click here
From Ian Mott
(3) Queensland forest owners are vigorously opposed to a Draft Private
Forestry Model Planning Framework soon to be presented to the Local
Government Association of Queensland.
 Recent examples of local government intervention in existing private
forestry operations has made it clear that there can be no role for local
government in private forest policy until the appalling ethical standards of
this sector are cleaned up.
It is outrageous that local government employees are not under the direct
supervision of the Public Service Commission, as they are in other states.
Only the CEO of a Council has any obligations under the Public Sector Ethics
Act. So when an employee acts without a proper regard for the rights of
people he is dealing with the complaint can only be reviewed by the CEO who
is given the luxury of determining whether he, not the employee, has breached
his own statutory obligations.
It is a shambles, and the Draft Model Provisions are no better. It is nothing
more than an elaborate justification for a predetermined decision to require
development consent for forestry. It flies in the face of bi-partisan
national forest policy that has long concluded that consent requirements are
a serious impediment to the expansion of forest habitat onto cleared land".

If local government really wants to help private forestry then they should
head the words of the Ronan Keating song, 'you say it best, when you say
nothing at all".
Ian Mott

(4) Farmers could be unwittingly in breach of EPBC act
According to NSW Farmers Association and AgForce Queensland, thousands of
farmers across the two states are at risk of unwittingly breaching the
Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act because it
is unclear and unworkable.

All farmers, whether they are broad acre, fruit and vegetable growers, pig,
dairy, cane, or cotton growers could be affected. The EPBC act came into
force last July, the aim was to protect the environment, particularly world
hertiage areas and threatened wild life and ecosytems.
In the case of Qld roughly, the State's Bluegrass and Brigalow ecosystems
covering 20% of the state or the Eastern half, are listed as threatened as
well as the world heritage areas of the wet tropics and the Great Barrier
Reef also come under the act. Severe penalties would apply if any action is,
or is likley to have a significant impact on a listed species or ecosytem.
 The activities on a rural property as at July the 16th last year, provide
the baseline, any change in activity even ten years on could trigger the act.

 Actions could include increasing stocking rates, clearing, planting pasture,
spraying controlling pests etc etc.The farm groups legal advice says the
problem is, the act represents a mine field of uncertainty, it contradicts
state law, it is draconian, and opens up the opportunity for ongoing
litigation and injunctions against landholders

In Queensland, brigalow scrub and bluegrass were listed without any
consultation taking place with landholders, while blackbox and coolibah
woodlands in the North and Central West of NSW are now nominated for listing.

Larry Acton said government could not expect farmers to continue to wear the
cost of nature conservation for the public good and comply with legislation
that was unworkable.

Mr Peters said if the whole community wanted to save particular segments of
the environment then the whole community had to share in the cost.

 VFF has added it's voice to the chorus against the law. Policy director with
the Federation, Clay Manners says one authority needs to take charge and give
certainty to farm planning.

QFF  is particularly concerned by
The absence of a committee to advise the Federal Environment Minister on the
likely social and economic impacts of proposed additional listings;
Inconsistencies between Federal and State legislation, eg the regulation of
clearing of regrowth vegetation differs between the EPBC Act and Vegetation
Management Act 1999;
The nature of nominations currently listed on the EPBC website; and
The potential impacts at the property level stemming from third party

Click Here to see The EPBC website
www.ea.gov.au/epbc it contains detailed information on the Act, establishment
of and amendments to lists of threatened species, threatened communities,
migratory species, protected species and key threatening processes; current
nominations under consideration and guidelines on ‘significance’, as well as
other information on the operation of the Act

 Govt Replies

Federal Environment minister Senator Robert Hill says he doesn't know what
the fuss is about. While the Federal Government says there isn't a problem
wth the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Consevation Act, the state
government is concerned. Qld Natural Resources Minister Stephen Robertson
says the Federal government doesn't have the resources on the ground to
assist farmers in determining whether they could be in breech of the Act. Mr
Robertson says Senator Hill raised the Legislation at the inaugural meeting
of the Natural Reosurce Minster's Council in Canberra last week and the issue
of the states and Commonwealth working together was discussed. Mr Robertson
says that's fine, but he doesn't want the state end up being the bunny with a
complex piece of law.

from QFF
(5) NFF Water Taskforce

The NFF Water Task Force met this week and has agreed to prepare a statement
covering water property rights and the implementation of rural water pricing.
All state organisations with an interest in water reform attended the
meeting.  Key issues discussed included:
* Definition of principles for a water property right including the
separation of issues of management from ownership of a water entitlement.
* Inadequacy of processes established by the States to assess the benefits
and costs of water allocation reform
* Property right issues with the implementation of the National Action Plan
on salinity and water quality
* Need for clearly defined policy regarding water pricing to recover the cost
of existing and future water infrastructure including upgrades of
* Need for a formal process of assessment of the benefit and costs of
implementing full cost pricing policies.
* The lack of transparency with regard to the competition payments made to
the States by the Federal Government.
(6) Web site comments from David Phelps (DPI, Qld)

Hi Leon,

Congratulations on a well balanced and well researched web site. Whilst I
can't speak for the whole of the DPI, from what I have browsed through in
your web site so far, it looks to be fair and up to date in the concepts and
theories presented. Some of it even relates to what I have been saying for
the last 10 years .....

If you are interested, I would be
keen to contribute information on some of our findings as well as provide
updates on some of our projects.

Keep up the good work,

David Phelps
Scientist (Rangelands)
Sheep and Wool Institute, DPI Longreach. Qld

(* Yes please David and anyone else with research etc that is relevant to
sustainability, conservation, or property rights)

(7) Forestry salinity credits?

The Regional Farm Forestry Conference at Dubbo has also been focussing on how
to combine plantation investment opportunities with environmental aims, and
guest speaker, Sue Salvin, will be discussing the future of salinity credits.
There's been much talk about the future prospects of a salinity credit
trading market, but much work needs to be done on establishing a legislative
framework before any such market could become a reality. To make such a
market work, in the future, laws could be introduced requiring landholders to
offset development by purchasing salinity credits, with possible penalties
for non-compliance.

(* This would be an amazing situation - Say you want to develop / regenerate
/ thin trees on some land, so you are forced to pay an amount for salinity
credits which is supposed to go to someone else who will  plant trees
elsewhere in the catchment. What happens if the hydrological model is
incorrect - do you get your money back? )
(8) NSW & Federal Ministers to discuss Namoi water trouble

For the first time in 18 months, it seems the 3 parties involved in the Namoi

Groundwater dispute will meet to resolve their differences on how to address
problems created by water reform. Groundwater irrigators in the Namoi face
reduced water allocations as a result of the reform process, but so far State
and Federal Governments have failed to reach agreement on how to assist the
farmers and communities who will suffer economically from irrigation water
cuts. The NSW Independant Member for Tamworth, Tony Windsor, now reports
though, that the NSW Minister for Agriculture, Richard Amery, has agreed to
meet with Federal Ministers, Warren Truss and John Anderson, along with two
representatives from the groundwater irrigators. Mr Windsor hopes the meeting
will reach a united response on how to deal with the Namoi's problems, which
might then set a precedent for the reform of other over-allocated groundwater
resources in NSW such as the Macaquarie and Murrumbidgee.
(9) Producers want information on GM crops

A survey of farmers has found 90 percent want more information on Genetically
Modified crops before they'll take the step of growing them. The survey
completed by Hassall and Associates on behalf of the Rural Industries R&D
Corporation found conventional farmers would consider growing GM crops if
they can be certain they will reduce production costs and increases profits.
Australian farmers are not confident about the quality of the information
available about GM's at the moment.
(10) Qld Code of Practice for Biotechnology

The Qld State Government has released a Code of Ethical Practice for
Biotechnology.  This Code outlines an ethical framework for biotechnology
research and development in Queensland.  In relation to agriculture it
addresses issues such as genetic modification of animals; and risk
assessment, approval and labelling of genetically modified foods.  Copies can
be downloaded from www.biotech.qld.gov.au, or click here

(11) Major Aus food processor told to stay away from GMOs

An international supermarket player, the Dairy Farmers of Hong Kong group,
(which owns a large number of Franklins' stores here in Australia), is now
insisting that all product from suppliers is free of genetically modified
organisms, and they will test product for GMOs. Australian company, Windsor
Farms, which operates the Cowra Cannery in NSW's Central West, supplies to
the Dairy Farmers of Hong Kong group, and is happy to meet the GM free
specifications. However, while Australia doesn't currently produce any
genetically modified fruit or vegetables that could end up in the processing
chain, there are concerns about ensuring that the vegetable oils used in
processing are not tainted by products like GM canola. Windsor Farms Group
Manager, Michael Leahy, says the consumer push for GM free foodstuffs is
being led by European countries. Meanwhile, there are market opportunities
for GM foods in the Americas including Canada in the US, where GM products
are widespread.
(12) 150 Birds facing extinction in Australia

More than 150 native birds species around the country are facing the threat
of extinction.  But while the number of threatened birds may seem enormous,
Dr Michael Weston from Birds Australia says there's been a big improvement in
farmers' efforts to preserve native birds on their farms. He says a number of
things are threatening the survival of many of our bird species.

(* What may cause one species a difficulty may not affect another, and
getting the correct information is difficult. Is there an opportunity to
reward bird watchers and landholders for data and monitoring results that
will assit knowledge to help with their survival?)
(14) Sheila Davis (Qld) comments on conservation

My position is that, as Australia has such shallow soils and low and
erratic rainfall, together with our unique wildlife, we should be
conserving as much of our vegetation as possible.

Even that which is "not of concern at present", i.e., over 30% of
original, is vitally important for retaining soils, the hydrological
cycle, and the retention of wildlife habitat.  There is some evidence
that when clearing reaches 80% of original vegetation,  extinctions

We are well into the highest wave of extinctions in the history of the
world, the only period of extinctions caused by humans.

I'm on the South Coast Working Group of the RVMP process and a
landholder of only 8ha in the Gold Coast hinterland, rich in wildlife,
but terribly threatened by humans and our introduced species of pets,
farm animals and weeds.

I do despair.

Sheila Davis

(* Hi Sheila, many fellow Landholders also despair.
 When I was a kid (1960`s) there were wombats on the coastal areas of the
lower SE of SA, but they have now sadly gone. I have occassionally seen
endangered Orange bellied Parrots on my parents former property also, and
while their numbers are uncertain (80 pairs?), not enough is known about
exactly how to maintain or increase their survival chances.- They appear to
have only had a limited range and modest numbers even from early settlement
We wonder if our society should seriously think about ideas such as these.  
Would it be a good thing to be able to reintroduce and farm native animals
like wombats? Currently it is illegal to do so.
Is it better to pay for positive environmental outcomes - rather than just
have fines for bad outcomes or imposing a loss of property rights which only
encourages the sss syndrome - (shoot, shovel & shutup).
Would decent incentives give people encouragement to buy certain properties
and conserve species? - Let us know what might work best in places like your
area Sheila as sustainable conservation and how to pay for it properly needs
some discussion - Leon )
(15) Bryan Hall (Rivers information group) comments on regulation methods

(* Bryan originally contacted Landholders for the environment through the web

Unfortunatley, self regulation has, at least in part, facilitated very
considerable environmental problems and a level of supervised management is
therefore required. Of course imposed regulation is always a blunt instrument
and not without it problems either. There are many precedents for
"intrusions" into the affairs of individuals
or corporations and they are not all related to the farming or rural
community. In the cities there are now development control plans, regional
environmental policies and regulations etc which are all intended to prevent
repition of past development mistakes.

Bryan Hall

(* Hi Bryan, your points are taken, but many landholders are asking, can
there be market signals for good environmental outcomes mixed in with our
other market signals. Without them there is only the market signal of supply
and demand for produce, which often means there are little or no excess funds
to improve the land .
Blunt regulations on diverse regions and diverse farming operations do not  
allow for
(1) differences in the landscape,
(2) differences in climatic and other factors
(3) the need for flexible management (click on Grazing, Fire, and tree pulling on our web
site for explanations)  and
(4) the regular need for instant decision making (e.g. sometimes we only get
a couple of days opportunity to get a good burn in places like the Desert
Uplands in Qld - soil moisture, air temp, wind speed, and grass bulk all
being variable and critical factors in the result)  

Blunt regulations will restrict good management options, and assit in causing
more degradation e.g.National Parks in Brittle areas. -  National  parks
rangers have told me they loathe having to make  certain management decisions
(burning, baiting, some weed management etc), because of the regulations on
them - so they just defer those decisions to the next ranger and the
situation gets worse - Leon )
(16) Lew Markey (DPI, Qld) comments on Salinity in the Brigalow Belt

Dear Leon and Jane,

Just a comment on your site.  It is good that you are trying to link the
scientific and social debate.  

Some comments on salinity in the brigalow belt in response to Nigel Livesey.
These are based on my wanderings in the area for soil conservation work.
Firstly the Brigalow belt that I have seen stretches from just north of
Narrabri in NSW though to at least a 100 km's north of Clermont.  Although
the majority is in Qld a significant proportion is in NSW with a longer
development history so I can't see why NSW does not also rate an honourable
mention by Nigel.   

Vegetation types that define the Brigalow belt are varied and, in my mind at
least, change in mixture significantly from north to south including the
association of vegetation and soil type.  Vegetation varies from what was
originally softwood scrub (that is believed to be remnant vegetation types
left over from when the area had a significantly higher rainfall), dense
brigalow thickets through to semi open woodlands and grasslands.  The
underlying geology includes both sedimentary (principally sandstone,
siltstone and mudstone) and igneous (principally basalt).  Slopes range from
less than 1% to over 12% s with slope lengths ranging from 1 to 200 meters
on the steeper slopes to several kilometres on the lower slopes.

In a system as diverse as the Brigalow system as for the Desert Uplands I
believe that broad generalisations do not adequately inform the discussion
on salinity control.  I am yet to see anything approaching a comprehensive
study of the salinity hazard to these bio-regions let alone the land systems
that build them.  However I may be out of the loop for those.  

A similar problem exists for the Lake Eyre Basin.  Most research appears to be
concentrated on the existing problem areas.  This is good as they are the
priority areas. Attempts to extrapolate the findings to fit a broader range
of areas that are often based on perception rather than facts.  For instance
the West Australian experience with salinity is severe and based on sandy
soils with high infiltration rates.  

Soils under brigalow as the predominant vegetation tend to be (notice even
here it is only a tendency not a definite) clay soils with high initial
infiltration reducing rapidly as the soil surface wets up.  Therefore  to
generalise from the West Australian experience to the brigalow belt may be a
long bow to be drawing.  

Yes there will be salinity issues and what we need to determine is where they
likely to appear in the landscape associated with geology, soils, vegetation
and other management systems.  It would be good to get the perspective's of
people like Roger Shaw who has some considerable experience with salinity in

Many of my observations agree with Dr King in the broad sense.  There are
issues of localised cause and effect issues that  we need a better
understanding of  within the land systems.  The importance of  these often
appears to go missing or the specifics are over generalised across the
broader landscape.   We need to understand these systems better before we

Keep up the good work.  It is good to see a site put together with a
different perspective.

From ABC radio viewpoint
(17) Excerpts from Helen Carrell`s viewpoint (Alice Springs)

We’ve now had a decade of Landcare. After lots of projects, communities
engaged and billions of dollars later - where are we at with our environment?
- Is it in worse shape that it was in 1990?

Perhaps it’s because we are still applying the same management tools adopted
from our forefathers in Europe. Where they have a non-brittle environment
which means consistent humidity throughout the year. We apply them in our
brittle tending environment, with inconsistent humidity throughout the year &
wet/dry seasons, which makes up most of Australia.

Can we really expect two very different environments to respond the same way

Everything in nature is interlinked and nothing can be treated in isolation -
nature functions in wholes. Think of a tetrahedron ( equal sided pyramid)-
each side made up of one of the following parts of our environments health -
water cycle, mineral cycle, energy cycles and community dynamics. If we
increase one side we affect the whole health of the environment so it is a
process not a system.

Until our environmental movers and shakers stop and really understand how the
natural environmental process functions in wholes – we will continue to band
-aid the symptoms of deeper root cause problems. Example - The greatest cause
for salinity is a lack of ground cover which is being recognized by senior
scientists in CSIRO -so why are we still talking about planting billions of
trees instead of creating the right environment for a mixture of vegetation
particularly perennial and mixed grasses?

There is hope as producers are using their observation to change their
practices, adding the tools of planned grazing & animal impact to get a
regenerative outcome.

And Finally
(18) Excerpts from an article from Jules Pretty

a Professor of Environment and Society at the University of Essex,
Colchester. He is calling for a totally new approach to Agriculture in Britain

Paying the price

Over recent decades we have unquestionably become very good at producing
food. The past fifty years have seen British wheat yields increase from 2.6
to 8 tonnes per hectare, barley from 2.6 to 5.8 t/ha, and daily milk yields
per cow more than double. But at the same time, the number of farms has
decreased from 439,000 to 240,000 – that is eleven farms for every one of
those 18,000 days. And the labour required to produce this food has fallen
dramatically. A great success – but only if your measurements of efficiency
are narrow.

For the costs of industrialised farming have simultaneously been very severe.
Modern agriculture has caused significant pollution from pesticide and
nitrate leakage. This costs £135 million each year to remove from drinking
water - costs paid for by water consumers, not by the polluters. (Indeed, the
farming sector effectively receives a hidden subsidy by not having to pay to
clean up the mess.) It has brought a severe loss of rural biodiversity, from
practices such as the removal of hedgerows, monocultural planting patterns
and use of pesticides. You have to wonder at the marvellous and extraordinary
diversity of foods on the shelves of supermarket stores, in comparison with
the modernised mono-landscape of much of our countryside. We have the food,
but no longer the skylarks or poppies or corncrakes. And industrialised
farming has led to harm to human health through BSE, pathogens and antibiotic
overuse. Overall, the total costs of environmental and health damage from
agriculture are estimated to be £1-2 billion a year.

For these reasons it is entirely wrong to think – as we have for so long been
told – that we have a ‘cheap food’ policy. Food only appears to be cheap
when we focus on the price in the shop. In fact, each of us pays in three
different ways for our food. First at the till. Second via taxes for
subsidies - an entirely legitimate and progressive way to keep down food
prices, incidentally, as the wealthy pay more tax, and the poorest spend
proportionally more of the income on food. And third to clean up the
environmental and health problems of modern agriculture. In truth, food is
expensive, and the sooner we appreciate this fact the better.

Crazy economics

The economics of farming today are crazy. A savoy cabbage costs 13 pence to
produce, is sold by the farmer for 11p, and by the supermarket for 47p. A
Suffolk farmer can own 2000 pigs but still not make any money. Best beef is
sold at auction today for 79p per kilo, when in 1995, before the confirmed
link between BSE and new variant CJD, it received almost double.

In fact, for every pound we spend in the shop now on food and drink, just 9p
in that pound gets back to farmers and rural communities. Half a century ago,
it was between 10 and 12 shillings (50-60p) in the pound. Yet at the same
time farming as a whole receives £3 billion of public subsidies each year. We
spend more on food, the profits of food manufacturers and supermarkets rise
(the profits of the big four supermarkets rose 38 per cent in the four years
to 1999), and less and less trickles down to farmers. Is there any wonder
that they and the countryside are in trouble?

A radical reconstruction

It is our narrow thinking that has led us down this road to crisis. And there
is no going back. It is no longer enough to lightly green the edge of
farming, making it slightly more environmentally-friendly to suit a few
marginal environmentalists. Or of making occasional nods to those concerned
about animal welfare, or rural jobs, or food quality and safety. The change
in thinking and practice must now be radical.

The question we must ask is: what is farming for? To produce food, yes; but
also to produce many other goods. It is the positive side-effects of farming
that offer a new way forward. More sustainable farming is very good at
producing public goods – things we can all enjoy and that contribute to the
economy. Farming produces landscapes we want to visit and enjoy. Each year,
day visitors and tourists spend 700 million days in the countryside, bringing
in vitally-important spending money. Farming can also absorb carbon in soils
and trees to provide new carbon sinks, thus helping to mitigate climate
change. It can hold water in wetlands to provide flood control. It can
produce the farmland birds we all feel are part of our heritage. It
contributes to rural jobs. Many of these may end up being significant new
sources of money for farmers.

This is the future for farming – as a multifunctional sector, building
natural and social assets in the countryside, whilst providing us with
wholesome food sourced from farms we trust.

Sustainable agriculture must become the primary goal for agricultural and
rural policy. A more sustainable agriculture seeks to make the best use of
nature’s goods and services as functional inputs. It does this by integrating
regenerative processes (such as nutrient cycling, nitrogen fixation, soil
regeneration and natural enemies of pests) into food production processes. It
minimises the use of inputs that damage the environment or harm human health.
Put simply, it is agriculture that minimises negative externalities and
maximises the positive side-effects. To move towards the goal of sustainable
agriculture I propose a five point national plan for reconstruction.

A five point plan

1. Switch subsidies from production to the multifunctional side-effects of

2. Develop a new ‘Greener Food Standard  which would push the market towards
more sustainable environmental practices than the current norm while not
requiring the full commitment to organic production.
There would need to be an independent system of verification and
accreditation such as that run by the Soil Association for organic food.
Ultimately it would clearly be desirable for such a standard to become global.

3. Use the tax system to encourage more sustainable farming

4. Develop new markets for positive side-effects of farming, particularly

5. Establish a Royal Commission on Sustainable Food and Farming

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