Pressure On Farmers To Change Environmental Practices

June 25, 1999 The Rural News

The farming community is likely to be under increasing pressure to change environmental practices which are detrimental to the environment, according to Victorian based rural consultant Rod Ashby.

Mr Ashby recently attended a three-day international seminar which was the fourth of a series promoted by the International Council for Local Environment Initiatives (ICLEI).

"Many people will be surprised to hear that some local governments are taking the lead in this matter," Mr Ashby said.

"Landholders are facing growing pressures relating to the impact of their activities on the land.

"This is resulting from increasing pressure from the wider community and governments to improve environmental management. As a consequence, local governments are increasingly influencing the management of land within their area of jurisdiction"

Local governments outlay around $3500 million a year on environmental and natural resource management. This represents roughly one third of expenditure by councils for all purposes hence these figures highlight the importance of local government in environmental management in Australia.

It is in the area of environmental accounting that many shires have changed to globally consistent methods of measuring environmental activity.

There are many benefits arising from accurate environmental accounting.

Shires have reported increases in ratepayer awareness of environmental sustainability issues, more targeted environmental programs, and the development of valuable partnerships between individuals and departments responsible for different aspects of environmental and financial management.

Principally, these have allowed shires to integrate environmental policies across all areas under their management.

"The lessons learnt are transferable to the farming community. In many local government areas, farmers are the major landholders," Mr Ashby said.

'It is now important that the traditional accounting systems are refined, so that farmers can identify how much they are spending on environmental matters and where this occurs on their farms.

'The farming community must be proactive, otherwise they run the risk of being excluded from the debate on environmental measurement and management. In this situation they may find themselves with responsibility for agricultural management practices, without having been involved in their formulation."