From vicious to virtuous cycles: a sustainable future for Australian agriculture




CPD’s latest discussion paper, From vicious to virtuous cycles: a sustainable future for Australian agriculture was launched as part of an agricultural sustainability roundtable hosted by Ernst & Young and CPD in Canberra on 12 August 2015.

Andrew Metcalfe AO, former Secretary of the Departments of Agriculture and Immigration, moderated the roundtable, which brought together stakeholders from across the sector to discuss the recommendations in the paper and consider broader trends and opportunities to improve sustainability performance. Major General Michael Jeffery AC, AO (Mil), CVO, MC (Retd), former Governor General and current National Advocate for Soil Health, provided opening remarks at the forum.

The paper argues that farmers at the leading edge of sustainable, regenerative farm businesses are opening up exciting new opportunities for better economic and ecological performance in Australian agriculture.

From vicious to virtuous cycles: a sustainable future for Australian agriculture says this requires breaking out of a vicious cycle of resources depletion that is undermining the long-term prospects of the sector.

From vicious to virtuous cycles

The condition of soil, water and other natural resources that underpin our agricultural productivity remains largely invisible to markets and has been systematically depleted over time.

This has made farms less resilient to drought pests and disease, more exposed to pressure from a changing climate, and more vulnerable to financial pressures that undermine farmers’ ability to invest for the long term. The paper argues these trends are eroding the foundations for agricultural productivity and will compromise the sectors’ ability to grasp the opportunities on offer in the Asian Century.

From vicious to virtuous cycles paper envisions another way: a strategic future for Australian agriculture that embraces a virtuous cycle.

Download From vicious to virtuous cycles

Agriculture is becoming ever more important as the mining boom recedes and as transformational change in Asia creates a new wave of opportunities for our rural commodities and communities.

An agricultural sector that prioritises value over volume can make a lasting contribution to Australia’s growth and prosperity.

Drawing on case studies of ‘first practice’ farmers at the cutting edge of sustainable land management, the discussion paper argues that together, consumers, supply-chains and producers can support a shift towards virtuous cycles in agriculture.

Innovative Australian farmers are demonstrating that healthy, biologically diverse native ecosystems can be utilised to produce conventional agricultural commodities sustainably and profitably.

Leading brands and firms are showing a determination and capacity to promote sustainable supply chains – and sustainability-conscious are increasingly voting with their wallets.

From vicious to virtuous cycles

Drawing on these trends, From vicious to virtuous cycles argues that agricultural supply chains that embrace sustainable land management and prioritise value over volume can make a lasting contribution to Australia’s prosperity.

This would offer a new and sustainable competitive edge for Australia’s food and fibre products, while entrenching Australia’s farmers as effective and trusted stewards of Australia’s treasured landscapes, natural resources and ecosystems.

From vicious to virtuous cycles outlines three policy priorities for seizing this momentum: building the evidence on the productivity and sustainability benefits of innovative first practice approaches; supporting projects and partnerships between sustainable producers and ecologically-discerning brands and retailers; and developing the accounting and measurement techniques needed to send the right signals about the value of protecting natural resources and landscapes.