Improve biodiversity & Reduce Carbon in the atmosphere
Healthy food comes from healthy ground
Regenerative Agriculture is a great way to improve production, enhance income streams, improve biodiversity as well as reduce carbon in the atmosphere
It is proposed that Colac Otway Shire continue to support the growth of regenerative agriculture in the shire for the multiple benefits it brings to farmers, growers and communities.
Healthy food comes from healthy ground. Yet industrial agriculture has often trapped farmers into using ever-more expensive chemicals for ever-reducing gain, whilst seriously damaging soils and waterways and compromising the health of populations (Massey, 2019). Experts advise that extensive land-clearing on farms is also an issue for productivity, with poor tree cover providing minimum shelter to animals, impacting their health and leaving land subject to soil erosion and leaching of critical nutrients and minerals. Agriculture and land clearing/deforestation also contribute significantly to carbon emissions each year, adding to the critical load of CO2 in the atmosphere which the world’s climate scientists advise we have now less than a decade to reduce.
Many farmers have found another way. Regenerative agriculture has been shown internationally and throughout the country – including on local farms – to greatly improve productivity, diversify income streams, whilst improving outcomes for the land and helping sequester carbon from the atmosphere. The evidence is that even when rainfall is restricted, regenerative agriculture can make the difference between thriving farms and failure. Colac Otway Shire tackled this issue head-on last September, hosting a conference, ‘From the Ground Up: Growing Regenerative Agriculture in Corangamite’. Participants are still excited about the opportunities to use regenerative farming practices to improve soils, improve the nutrient value of foods, whilst simultaneously enhancing their environments and storing carbon.
Key to regenerative practices, according to Massey, is for people on the land to re-learn working with nature rather than against it – for example, allowing natural insect predators to protect crops without sprays, moving away from set-stocking of ruminants in paddocks which damages grasslands and soils, and discontinuing over-tilling of soils which destroys the soil structure. And planting many more trees, for shelter, to encourage biodiversity and as carbon sinks; planting the right trees for the right land will boost, rather than inhibit, productivity. There are many on-the-ground examples of how, even in Australia’s worst drought-affected regions, regenerative practises have supported farm resilience and productivity. Ross Garnaut, in his highly regarded 2019 book ‘Superpower: Australia’s Low Carbon Opportunity’, also provides evidence that storing carbon in soils, pasture, woodland forests and biodiverse plantations can make an exceptional contribution to meeting our carbon emission targets whilst strongly supporting Australia’s advanced agricultural sector.
Regenerative agriculture is gaining momentum throughout the country, and overseas. Our local area is already a leader in regenerative practice with the Otway Agroforestry Network based in Birregurra now internationally recognised as an outstanding example. The Colac Otway Shire can further support regenerative agriculture opportunities through follow-up workshops and conferences, being a conduit for information and further development and support of local networks.
This will align with these Council plans; Environment Strategy 2010-2018, Colac Otway Rural Living Strategy 2011, Environment Action Plan 2013-2015, 2013 Roadmap for a Carbon Neutral Plan, Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2017- 2027, 2017-2021 Council Strategic Plan.
 Agriculture 13% (Climate Council 2017) and 7% (Climate Change Authority 2013).
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