Incentives for improving soil health

| Posted Jun 03,2022

Policy advisers, researchers, bank and finance representatives and soil-related groups came together in early May for the National Soils Advocate Forum 2022: Economic considerations and market-based drivers of soil health change.

The Forum was hosted by Australia’s National Soils Advocate, and Soil CRC Patron, the Hon. Penny Wensley AC.

It focussed on the economic drivers associated with improving soil health through various incentives and production outcomes, as well as understanding the risks and rewards of making these changes.

Two Soil CRC researchers – Dr Nick Pawsey and Professor Mark Morrison, both from Charles Sturt University, presented their research at the Forum.

Dr Pawsey spoke about his Soil CRC research into finance issues – green debt and equity investment opportunities. He explored the increased interest in green banking and investment and how farmers can leverage this. He also looked at how farmers could be rewarded for soil stewardship through finance markets. One of the challenges Dr Pawsey raised is how soil researchers can better communicate their results to those in the finance industry.

Professor Mark Morrison explored how consumer markets can be activated to reward soil stewardship. Outlining his Soil CRC research, he noted there are three messages that are resonating with consumers when it comes to soil health – the benefits to health, to the environment and to farmers. He also noted that one of the challenges will be gaining a better understanding of the cost to farmers of transitioning to good soil stewardship practices.

Host Penny Wensley said “farm and landscape management decisions are influenced by economic drivers and this Forum facilitated greater understanding of the financial incentives to improve soil health. This is a step forward to fulfilling the national objective of restoring and maintaining the health of Australia’s agricultural industries and our environment.

“An important part of my mandate is to contribute expertise and advice to relevant Ministers, which our Forums do, both directly and via the government policy officers and Ministerial advisers who attend,” said Penny Wensley.

Soil CRC Chair Dr Paul Greenfield and CEO Dr Michael Crawford also attended the forum. Dr Greenfield said “While much of the Soil CRC’s research is directed primarily to farmers, it is good to see that some of our research is of great relevance to policy makers and industry decision makers. Ultimately, however, it will all result in the improved management and sustainability of Australia’s soils.”

Other presenters included Associate Professor Vanessa Wong, President of Soil Science Australia and Associate Professor in Soil and Land Management at Monash University; Dr Kate Burke, Managing Director of Think Agri and Professor David Pannell, Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of Western Australia.

Around 85 people attended the event in Canberra, with a further 200 people registered online.

Presentations and the recording from the panel discussion are available on the Forum website: National Soils Advocate Forum.