Western Australia’s rural communities are essential to our food security, economy, and cultural identity.
The Greens (WA) recognise the important role farmers play and also recognise that many farmers and pastoralists are practising sustainable farming. However, more needs to be done to support their work.
The 2011 – 2012 Annual Report of the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) records that Western Australian farm products generated around $5.9 billion revenue, or 11% of the State’s GDP. Eighty percent of this produce was exported, including 97% of grain, 75% of livestock and 18% of horticultural produce. Seventy percent of these exports go to Asia.
Many of the areas farmed in Western Australia have poor soils and there are ongoing challenges of soil degradation, in the form of erosion, nutrient depletion, acidification, waterlogging and salinity. For example the DAFWA Annual Report states that all agricultural regions are at an unacceptably high risk of soil erosion, with 10% of the Central, 6% of the Southern and 5% of the Northern Agricultural region sites rated as being at moderate to very high risk of erosion compared with the 3% sustainability target.
Farmers face many complex agricultural, environmental, economic and social challenges. Increasing climate variability, declining and less predictable rainfall and dramatically reduced stream flows are increasing farming risks. A combination of rising costs of fuel and fertilisers, competition from imported produce, limited local markets, price pressures from the large supermarket chains and often having to compete in international markets is putting many farmers under significant financial pressure. The farming population in Western Australia is ageing with the median age now being 53. There is also a growing skill shortage with fewer young people choosing to stay in farming or related skill areas. In addition, mining is threatening important agricultural areas, either directly or by extracting or damaging water sources. This has put additional strain on farming communities. Finally, the growing of Genetically Modified (GM) crops has set farmer against farmer in a legal challenge to protect the rights of Western Australia’s organic producers and other non-GM farmers.
We support a resilient agricultural sector and support farmers to remain on the land and earn a healthy return on their produce.
The Greens (WA) want:
- sustainable land management1
- resilient, well-serviced rural communities which keep people on the land and provide a future for young people in agriculture
- better access to services for primary producers (including health, social services, training and education), and also better access to expertise and technologies that improve the sustainability of their enterprises and communities (see also The Greens (WA) Regions policy)
- protection of prime agricultural land from encroachment by urban, industrial and mining developments (see also The Greens (WA) Sustainable Settlements and Mining policies)
- stronger regulation of foreign ownership of agricultural land
- improvement in efficient water use and the prioritisation of water allocation for use for agriculture over mining (see also The Greens (WA) Water Resources policy)
- improved quality of water resources within agricultural systems
- improved efforts to prevent further soil degradation
- establishment and restoration of corridors of native vegetation on farming properties to provide shelter belts, increased biodiversity2 and other environmental benefits (see also The Greens (WA) Biodiversity policy)
- increased farm forestry to replace the existing native forest logging, diversify sources of farm income and to provide other environmental benefits and ecosystem services (see also The Greens (WA) Plantations policy)
- increased research into sustainable agricultural innovations and industries
- more effective ecological management of invasive species, pests and diseases
- greater availability of a diverse range of locally grown fresh produce to Western Australian customers and greater promotion of Western Australian produce to West Australian consumers (see also The Greens (WA) Food policy)
- protection and enhancement of local control over crop diversity and resilience
- support for community-based food production systems including urban and peri-urban3 gardens
- support for production and processing to create higher value exports
- labelling of agricultural produce that accurately reflects its origin and any Genetically Modified content (see also The Greens (WA) Food policy)
The Greens (WA) will initiate and support legislation and other actions to:
- ensure agricultural land zoning reflects land use capability and protects prime agricultural land and water sources
- support food growing, trading and processing practices that support local producers and reduce transport, packaging and waste
- support initiatives that increase local product quality and nutritional value, local value-adding and local distribution, and that promote Western Australian produce to the Western Australian community
- prevent any detrimental effects of further de-regulation such as has occurred in the dairy industry
- increase support for regional natural resource management bodies, catchment groups, regional environment councils, other community organisations, individuals and local government in developing, delivering and monitoring of ecologically sustainable natural resource management strategies (see also The Greens (WA) Regions policy)
- promote and initiate incentive schemes to landholders implementing sustainable farming systems
- support incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to store carbon in the soil, plantation forestry and biodiversity plantings, including providing incentives for production of farm-based renewable energy (see also The Greens (WA) Plantations policy)
- protect the biosecurity4 of local produce from the impacts of so-called free trade agreements
- ensure resourcing of biosecurity, pest, weed and disease control measures, to protect Western Australia’s agriculture, natural systems and population
- increase funding for user education, compliance monitoring and strengthening of regulations and codes in the use of agricultural chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fertilisers etc).
- implement more fully salt-tolerant crops, pastures and other whole-of-farm perennial systems to provide farming options for saline lands
- encourage agricultural practises that maximise nutrient recycling, water use efficiency and soil health, such as components of conservation agriculture and, where possible, organic and biodynamic agriculture
- replace the live animal export industry with a Halal-accredited5, chilled and frozen carcass industry (see The Greens (WA) Live Animal Export Discussion Paper)
- promote environmental benefits of grass-fed livestock
- restore the health of arid lands
- re-introduce the moratorium on all GM crops and, in the absence of a moratorium, seek to ensure effective regulation to prevent any adverse impacts of such crops on non-GM producers and consumers, including ensuring legal liability of producers of GM crops (see also The Greens (WA) Genetic Modification policy)
(See also the Australian Greens Sustainable Agriculture policy)
- Sustainable land management - managing land without damaging ecological processes or reducing biological diversity. It requires the maintenance of the following key components of the environment:
- Biodiversity - the variety of species, populations, habitats and ecosystems;
- Peri-urban – land adjoining an urban area between the suburbs and the countryside
- Biosecurity is a set of preventive measures designed to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases, quarantined pests, invasive species, and living modified organisms.
- Halal slaughter – the method of slaughtering meat animals according to Islamic law for sale to Muslims.