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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE - PART OF 2020 VISION - held 1992 in BEAUDESERT

Last Updated on Monday, 12 March 2012 14:20

What are the economic, social, landscape and environmental benefits of keeping arable land under primary production? What are the implications of land values for viability of agriculture? If the retention of land as farmland is seen as desirable how can we protect that land from alienation from agriculture?2020logolaca.gif                                                             

These questions were asked in 1992 in Beaudesert at Logan and Albert Conservation Association's community conference 2020 vision.

These questions are still relevant today - and possibly more so. Then we were looking at SEQ 2001 Project. Today we are facing an early review of the SEQ Regional Plan (2009 - 2031 see below) which is looking to accommodate and house the enormous increase in population. Good Quality Agricultural Land has been taken over by residential developments in other areas. Will it happen in our local area? There is a SPP (State planning policy) that is intended to "protect" GQAL - but does it? For how long?

From the paper presented then...

1. INTRODUCTION

Sustainable development can only be achieved if industries are both ecologically and economically viable. The concept of sustainable agricultural industries requires that production systems continue to produce profitable yields without degrading the resource base or other parts of the environment.? This suggests that there are three major issues that must be addressed to sustain agriculture in Beaudesert Shire:[now Scenic Rim Regional Council including the rural area fro Boonah Shire]

-economic viability of primary industries and production units;
-stability of the resources required for agricultural production; and
-impact of agriculture on the environment.

2. ECONOMIC ISSUES

The gross value of agricultural production from Beaudesert Shire was $85.1m in 1988?89 made up of livestock sales (64%), livestock products (20%) and crops (16%). To maintain this level of production, agricultural industries require adequate resources, productivity and markets to remain economically viable. While production of beef, dairy products and grain may fluctuate with seasonal conditions, population growth in the region, the nation and the world should guarantee a solid demand for primary products grown in the Shire.

2.1 Viability of .Farms
Farms faced with rising costs must increase production through either higher productivity or increased area to remain viable. Productivity increases have been achieved through the application of technology and research, but the major adjustment over the past 10 years has been increases in farm size through amalgamation and the consequent reduction in farm numbers.

While increase in farm size has been achieved in part by amalgamation with neighbouring properties, some industries have declined in overall size. In the dairy industry for example, there has been a reduction in farm numbers and total cattle numbers, but volume of production has increased due to increased production per cow.

2.2 Fragmentation of Agricultural Land
The process of restructuring of rural industries through farm amalgamation must continue if these industries are to survive. Subdivision controls need to be flexible to accommodate the sale of allotments between farm holdings but land use controls are also necessary to prevent uses occupying small allotments in rural areas which may restrict farm management practices by unreasonable concerns over residential amenity.

3. RESOURCE ISSUES

Agricultural land resources are acknowledged as important national resources because of their existing and potential contribution to national income, global food stocks and attractive rural landscapes.

These resources are limited and are the subject of increasing conflict over their use and management. While the area of land used for agricultural purposes makes up about 70% of. Beaudesert Shire, less than 5% is used for cropping and approximately 20% is used for intensive  grazing.  
These scarce land and water resources need to be used and managed carefully to maintain their productive capacity and ensure that their suitability for other uses in the future is not diminished.

3.1 Protection of Agricultural Land
The major agricultural resources of the Shire are located on the floodplains of the Logan and Albert Rivers and the elevated plateaus of Tamborine and Beechmont. These areas are protected by the
current planning scheme which designates areas suitable for agriculture and intensive grazing as an,
Arable Resource Area. These areas are generally zoned Rural to control the intrusion of non
agricultural uses and limit land subdivision.

3.2 Land Degradation
Land degradation due to soil erosion and land?slip is a problem in the steep grazing lands of the Shire, particularly on steep slopes over 30%. These problems are being reduced to some extent as regrowth of forest cover occurs on steep slopes. Land management practices to control land degradation are well documented and include mulching, contour banks, tree planting and reduced cultivation. Landcare groups (Beaudesert and Beechmont) have formed in the community to assist in the important roles of education and implementation so that these threats to sustainable agriculture can be overcome.

4. ENVIRONMENT ISSUES

Agricultural land use and practices have the potential for both beneficial and harmful effects on the environment. A beneficial impact is the creation of the attractive rural landscape which has formed such a dominant part for the Shire's image and attracts large numbers of visitors and residents. Negative impacts include soil erosion, encroachment into wildlife habitat and the generation of pollutants.

4.1 Landscape Values
Agriculture contributes significantly to the image of the Shire along with mountains and forests by providing an attractive landscape for tourists to travel through and for residents to live in. However, as more agricultural land is converted to residential and highway uses this landscape is becoming more developed and crowded. The sprawl of small villages and scattered rural?residential developments act to break up the clear distinction between built?up and rural areas. There is a need for the community to define the image it desires and to protect those parts of the landscape which contribute most significantly. These include agricultural areas, river valleys and forested backdrops.

4.2 Conflicts over Agricultural Practices
As with other forms of industry, modern agriculture relies on inputs which consume energy and generate outputs such as chemicals, noise, dust and smoke which can cause the loss of rural amenity. It is the clear responsibility of farmers to operate efficiently and to control pollution from their activities. However the level of nuisance from noise, dust and smoke which is tolerated by farming communities is often unacceptable to nearby residents who have chosen to live in a rural area for its values of quiet and peaceful surroundings.

The solution of these conflicts is to prevent them developing by separating residential and agricultural uses through zoning controls. However, land holders must also comply with health and work safety standards to ensure that they play their part as responsible neighbours.

5. CONCLUSION

The solutions to almost all the issues discussed in this paper lie in adequate planning. Strategic and regional planning offer the communities of Beaudesert Shire [now SRRC] the opportunity to determine how to achieve a viable, attractive agricultural sector which can exist beside the residential, tourism and industrial sectors.

After a collaborative process the following priorities were elucidated:

1.  The Right to Farm
2.  Establishment of an agricultural research and education facility in the Shire to promote greater understanding of Sustainable Agriculture
3.  Encouragement of best possible Land Care.
4.  Establishment of local marketing networks to research and develop higher value end products and sell local produce/products to the region
5 . Protection of catchments and water quality

1. The Right to Farm

Identified conflicts and existing problems:

Objections from adjacent landowners:
An increasing number of farms are finding non farming neighbours moving in to the area. Non farming landowners living, for example, on rural residential subdivisions, are likely to object to dust, smoke,. noise, odour and chemical spray drift from farming practices on adjacent properties.

Even if rural residential properties are not immediately adjacent an increase in urban populations nearby will possibly result in community pressure to change farming practices to avoid impacts of dust, smoke, noise, odour and chemical spray drift.

Nearby property development will increase potential land values of farming land concievably to values above that of fanning country. This opens the option for farmers to sell their land for "development" at a higher price than would be obtained from a sale of an operating farm/business. Rates are also likely to rise potentially forcing farmers to sell up. Non farming development will irreversibly alienate good agricultural land from farming.

Potential solutions
Development applications involving changes of land use (to industrial or residential uses) adjacent to land currently zoned rural could be approved subject to the provision of buffer zones on the developing land. The operation of a farm on land zoned rural is an as of right use. The farmer should not be penalized by the change of land use on a neighbouring property. A vegetated buffer could catch spray drift and filter smoke and dust, as well as a visual screen.

Recommended
It is recommended that the planning scheme provide for industrial and residential developments to provide buffers adjacent to rural land.

In recognition of the increase of land values of rural land through development pressures and approaching rezonings, it is recommended that the Beaudesert Shire Council investigate a land value equalization scheme, providing a compensatory payments to primary producers who sell their farms as going concerns at less that the development driven market price. 

It is recommended that the Beaudesert Shire Council restrict the amount of growth in the Shire.

It is further recommended that the Beaudesert Shire Council provide a a rate incentive for rural properties that remain rural.

2. Establishment of an agricultural research and education facility in the Shire to promote greater understanding of Sustainable Agriculture

Identified Conflicts and Existing Problems

Given the size of the rural sector in Beaudesert Shire it may not be practicable to locate a research and education facility locally.

Availability of relevant data

Ethics of current farming practices Some members of the farming community may feel threatened by the establishment of a facility researching and teaching "sustainable" farming practices (?).

Potential solutions
Comment: Regardless of encroaching development, Beaudesert Shire's agricultural sector will almost certainly, have to move towards ecological sustainability The imperative will come from two sources; the increasingly sophisicated market concerned about environmental health, will demand, for example, less chemical use in food production, and secondly, the potential for an accumulation of toxic chemicals and other threats to productivity and health and safety. Complex arguments over the precise definition of sustainability have not been entirely resolved. It is easy to appreciate that there is widespread misunderstanding about the environmental impact of farming. Some people would prefer to believe that any farming irreparably damages land, others would prefer to believe that the impact of farming or land development for farming, while modifying the environment, did no actual harm. The reality lies somewhere in between.

There is a necessity for research into the practical steps needed to keep farms healthy and productive at the local level. Productive capacity and robustness of the immediate environment of the farm is dependant on a range of variables. Only local research will have credence amongst local primary producers, and for good reason. Site specific problems need local solutions. Some solutions may be difficult or expensive to implement. Access to free information and advice as well as exposure to the latest practices will assist landholders in managing their properties. The level of on the ground support from government agencies has decreased in recent years. Establishment of an agricultural research and education facility in the Shire to promote greater understanding and successful practice of Sustainable Agriculture was seen by some participants as vital to the continued viability of farming. Such a centre could even give farmers of Beaudesert Shire a competitive edge in a changing market..

Ultimately the continued success of a farming venture depends on maintaining the productive capability of the soil.

Recommendations
It is recommended that the Beaudesert Shire Council approach the Queensland Department of Education to fund a feasibility study.

An agricultural research and education facility should undertake research into locally appropriate, management practices and farming systems with the objective of a sustainable yield of high value produce. Scientists, Lecturers/Teachers and post graduate researchers in partnership with local landowners could undertake research and provide, .most importantly, short courses, seminars and workshops for working farmers (fitting in with farmers' schedules), less urgently, formal academic courses could be run for students. From its inception, the facility should involve as many members of the farming community as possible.
 
The facility should involve the community in the aim and design of research, as well as in monitoring and data collection and analysis. Results should be published in plain English, illustrated or on video and made freely available.

 

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