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Wheatbelt farmers’ worthwhile investment

7 December 2017

The Australian government has generated a 50 per cent return on investment from landowners in the Wheatbelt when it comes to funding land care projects.

That’s one of the findings from research undertaken by natural resource management group Wheatbelt NRM. Over the past five years, the Australian government through its National Landcare Program has spent more than $5 million funding biodiversity and sustainable agriculture projects in partnership with the region’s landowners

This has generated an additional $2.8 million contribution from the community itself. Wheatbelt NRM’s operations manager Rebecca Palumbo said the research was done to show to the Australian government the leverage its investment had created. “We need to demonstrate just how much of a contribution our community is making,” Rebecca Palumbo said.

“We did this by tracking the spending of farmers over the past five years, and quantifying what extra money was generated on top of government funding.

“We found that across all of the projects that collaborate with landowners, 30 per cent has been paid for by the farmer.

These figures were based on benchmarking operating costs using figures from agricultural consultancy group Planfarm. “This is the first time we’ve calculated it in real dollars,” Rebecca Palumbo said.

“We’ve always structured programs knowing there was a landowner contribution but we’ve never added it up.” Southern Brook farmer Ty Fulwood agreed landowner contribution was significant.

He’s invested in trials to improve soil health through deep ripping and lime application, in partnership with Wheatbelt NRM.

“We’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars, invested in machinery and labour to make our farming practices more sustainable,” Ty Fulwood said.

“However we probably wouldn’t have undertaken these trials and changes without initial funding support.”

“The work we’ve done will also benefit other farmers as we share information and data amongst our peers.”

Rebecca Palumbo said the farmer investment continued into biodiversity programs, including feral animal control and re-vegetation

“For example, one Corrigin farmer invested $42,000 to match our contribution,”

Rebecca Palumbo said.“This resulted in 15 kilometres of fencing and the protection of 34 hectares of pristine bush land.

“On top of this, we supported their feral animal control covering a further 250 hectares of remnant vegetation in total.

“This type of work is crucial for our region, which has a number of species listed as Critically Endangered by the Federal Government.

“These landowner-driven projects prove the community has skin in the environmental game and isn’t just relying on handouts.”