Michael Jeffery appointed the first Advocate for Soils
Soils for Life is delighted at the PM's announcement made at yesterday's National Farmers' Federation Congress (read the speech here) - great news for our soils and for supporting the widespread adoption of regenerative landscape management.
Read about the announcement c/o The Australian newspaper below, and the follow up article from The Australian, 27 Oct 12 here:
Ex-G-G is the first Advocate for Soils
October 24, 2012 12:00AM
FORMER governor-general Michael Jeffery is to become Australia's first official Advocate for Soils in a government push to preserve the productivity of Australia's farms and reverse widespread soil degradation. Julia Gillard announced the appointment yesterday, telling the National Farmers Federation congress in Canberra that developing a national soil health strategy was now a top priority for her government. Sir Michael said while details of his "wonderful" new role, offered to him by the Prime Minister on Monday, had not yet been finalised, he expected to be attached to Ms Gillard's office.
"This is a huge opportunity to get things right, to get all our parliaments and politicians onside and to work together to transform the landscape, look after our farmers and get the best outcome for the country," Sir Michael said.
"Farmers and landowners are the key carers of our soils and country; they should be recognised not just for their food production but as stewards of our landscape and if they make improvements to their soil, that is something we as citizens should jointly financially support."
Under the new policy, farmers may become eligible for government payments if they act to improve and protect their productive soils, prevent erosion, salinity and the loss of valuable topsoil, as now occurs in Europe.
More than 60 per cent of Australia's old and fragile soils are classed as severely degraded with low productivity, at the same time as farmers are being asked to nearly double food and fibre production by 2050. Sir Michael, a former Australian defence chief who was born in the West Australian town of Wiluna to a stockman father, said he was determined to use his appointment to push for action.
Since retiring as governor-general four years ago, Sir Michael has established a new not-for-profit organisation Soils for Life, aimed at encouraging farmers to adopt a holistic, chemical-free approach to managing their precious soils, water and native vegetation for both their own financial benefit and the environment.
The government's new commitment to a national soil plan came as part of a commitment to key independent MP Rob Oakeshott in return for winning his support for the mining tax.
A delighted Mr Oakeshott yesterday said: "Australia is facing one hell of a challenge; farmers are being asked to produce 70 per cent more food, twice as efficiently and with half the environmental degradation of the past, at a time when we have degraded and lost so much of our topsoil."