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Scientific panel to examine full picture on vegetation management

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AgForce has welcomed the establishment of an expert panel of eminent scientists to help the Australian beef industry examine vegetation management measures for the mutual benefit of agriculture and the environment.

The scientific panel – which meets in Brisbane for the first time in June 2018 – is being established for the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework, a whole-of-industry initiative which defines sustainable beef production and provides evidence on how that is being achieved.

AgForce General President Grant Maudsley said harsh new vegetation management restrictions had recently been imposed on Queensland farmers on the basis of incomplete information, and this new scientific panel may help to fill in the blanks.

“The Queensland Government has been using satellite imagery for years to measure vegetation clearing rates for the Statewide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS), but they haven’t been measuring how much vegetation in Queensland has grown at the same time,” he said.

“Briefing notes released under Right to Information laws reveal Ministers were told in 2016 that we have accurate information on losses, but not accurate information on gains so in effect, the SLATS report has only been telling half the story.

“You can’t and won’t get the best environmental and agricultural production outcomes making decisions on flawed and incomplete data.”

Australian Beef Sustainability Framework Steering Group Chair Bryce Camm said an expert third-party panel of eminent scientists had been invited to help define and refine indicators for the key priority area – the balance of grass and tree cover nationally.

“We’ve appointed a team of world-leading remote sensing experts, biologists, pasture experts and conservationists to our expert panel because there is no agreement on what or how to accurately measure the tree growth and tree/pasture changes in vegetation managed by the Australian cattle industry – and indeed, the related expectations of our customers,” he said.

Mr Maudsley said the work being done by technical experts would help to develop a long term solution to managing vegetation for the mutual benefit of industry productivity and environmental outcomes.

“It’s fantastic to see the industry taking ownership of this issue through the Sustainability Steering Group and injecting some much needed leadership into the vegetation management debate,” he said.

“The Australian Beef Sustainability Framework prioritises collaboration and evidence to help inform policy making, and AgForce looks forward to providing continued input into the valuable and important work being done through this initiative.

“Queensland agriculture can and should have an exciting future, but we need governments at all levels to work with us, not against us, and adopt policies that take us forward, not drag us back.”

The Australian Beef Sustainability Framework is an initiative of the Red Meat Advisory Council with support from Meat and Livestock Australia.

AgForce recently formed a partnership with Australia’s largest agribusiness bank, NAB, to better understand and value natural capital, which will link in with the sustainability framework.

Source: AgForce

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