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Beyond the Bale : May 2010
FAST FACTS l The Australian wool industry needs to be able to demonstrate to its international customers that woolgrowers are environmentally responsible. l The five-year Land, Water & Wool program was the Australian wool industry's most significant R&D investment in natural resource management. l The findings from the program show that profitable wool production and improved environmental management can be highly compatible. l The manuals and guides produced by the program provide practical information for woolgrowers. Sustainability: Land, Water Probably the biggest message to emerge from the Australian wool industry's five-year natural resource management program Land, Water & Wool is that improved environmental management of land and water resources can result in more money for woolgrowers as well as a healthier environment. Although the program ended nearly three years ago, consumers' growing demand for eco-friendly products and the public's concerns about the environment now make the outcomes of the program even more important than ever for woolgrowers. Tackling environmental issues can improve on-farm profitability at a local level, but it is also critical to securing a 'clean, green' reputation for the Australian wool industry, which is so vital in the international marketplace. Initiated by AWI and Land & Water 14 WOOL PRODUCTION May 2010 BEYOND THE BALE Consumers' growing demand for natural products and the public's concerns about the environment are two good reasons why woolgrowers should revisit the outcomes of the Australian wool industry's largest natural resource management program Land, Water & Wool. According to woolgrower James Street from the New England Tablelands, the wool industry and Australia's other agricultural industries have to look after their land and water resources for three very good reasons: intergenerational equity, national security and markets. "We owe it to our children and grandchildren to pass on a healthier country than we inherited -- that's only fair," James says. A sustainable environment means sustainable profits Australia, the Land, Water & Wool program provided Australian woolgrowers with research and information resources for high- priority natural resource management issues. The program tackled topics that are at the heart of profitable and sustainable land management for woolgrowers in Australia: • sustaining native vegetation and biodiversity • managing our waterways and associated land • living with dryland salinity • maintaining and improving the rangelands used for pastoral production • developing tools to help woolgrowers manage our variable and changing climate, and • exploring what the industry's future could be in the next 25 years and the associated environmental issues. According to Tasmanian woolgrower "We also need to maintain a healthy resource base to produce food and fibre. That's just plain, simple national security. "And perhaps most importantly, we need to tell our clients and markets that we are environmentally and ethically responsible. It's an essential way for wool to secure a bigger market share." MARKET DEMANDS James, who was a member of the program's Sustainable Wool Advisory Group, says the public is clearly becoming interested in how industries such as agriculture impact on the natural environment. "Consumers, as well as politicians, scientists and farmers, are vigorously debating the future of our national and global natural resources," James says. "Topics such as native vegetation regulation, climate change, carbon sequestration, water restrictions, drought, global warming and desalination plants are commanding front and centre stage." According to James, the messages and outputs from the Land, Water & Wool program are consequently now more relevant than ever. "At the inception of Land, Water & Wool, there was concern in some quarters at the large amount of money invested in the program, but given the consumer trend towards natural products and concerns over the environment, it is proving to be money well spent. "And as well as being a great marketing tool for the industry, the program has given many woolgrowers the confidence to have a go at improving the natural environment on their properties." SUSTAINABLE FARMING On their own property 'Blaxland', north- west of Walcha, NSW, James and his wife Caroline run a self-replacing Merino flock producing fine to superfine, heavy-cutting, long-staple wool, which is sold to the NSW woolgrowers Caroline and James Street