Australian Government investment in Landcare

​​​​​The Australian Government recognises and supports the important role that community and industry organisations have through the Landcare movement in protecting and improving the condition of soils, vegetation and biodiversity on-farm. The condition of these natural resources underpin the productivity and profitability of the agriculture sector and deliver community benefits. The next phase of the National Landcare Program, announced in May 2017, will provide financial support for Landcare activities until June 2023. The National Landcare Program is jointly delivered by us and the Department of the Environment and Energy. Here we detail information on the agriculture related programs.

Information about the environment only elements and joint agriculture and environment elements, (including Regional Land Partnerships) of the National Landcare Program, are on the nrm website.

The agriculture only components of the National Landcare Program are detailed below.

Smart Farms Program

Round 1 successful grants:

  • Smart Farming Partnerships grants program. On 26 June 2018, Minister Littleproud announced 15 successful projects for the first round of the program valued at just over $27 million.

    A further round under this program is expected, with the call for applications anticipated to be announced in 2018-19. Please see below for additional information.
  • Smart Farms Small Grants. On 31 July 2018, Minister Littleproud announced 77 successful projects for the first round of the program valued at almost $5 million.

    A further five rounds of this program are expected, with the next call for applications to open in 2018-19. Please see below for additional information.

    A list of successful projects for both elements of Smart Farms is now available below.

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The Government has allocated $134 million under the Smart Farms Program to support the development and uptake of best practice, tools and technologies that help farmers, fishers, foresters and regional communities improve the protection, resilience and productive capacity of our soils, water and vegetation, in turn supporting successful primary industries and regional communities.

The program will focus on protecting and improving the condition of soil, vegetation and biodiversity and support agricultural systems to adapt to change.

The Smart Farms Program runs over six years from 2017-18. It is made up of the following three elements:

  • Smart Farming Partnerships is a $60 million grants program for medium to large scale projects to encourage the development, trial and roll-out of new and innovative tools and farm practices.
  • Smart Farms Small Grants is a $50 million grants program for on-ground projects to support the adoption of practices that improve the management and quality of our natural resources and increases on-farm productivity.
  • Building Landcare Community and Capacity will allocate $24 million to support the sharing of knowledge and achievements in natural resource management and promote community leadership.

There is also information on the nrm website in video format concerning the Smart Farms program.

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The Smart Farms Program

There are three parts to the $134 million Smart Farms program, these are Smart Farming Partnerships and Smart Farms Small Grants, which are competitive grant programs, and Building Landcare Community Capacity which is an ad-hoc grants program. Smart Farms started in 2017-18.

Smart Farming Partnerships ($60 million) grants range between $250,000 and $4 million (GST exclusive). These larger projects will support the formation of relevant and effective partnerships between experienced and skilled organisations and individuals. Under the program these partnerships will:

  • develop, trial and implement new and innovative tools that support sustainable agriculture practice changes that in turn will deliver more productive and profitable agriculture, fishing, aquaculture and farm forestry industries
  • protect Australia’s biodiversity
  • protect and improve the condition of natural resources (in particular soils and vegetation), and
  • assist Australia to meet its obligations under relevant international treaties.

There are expected to be two rounds of funding. The first round outcome was announced in June 2018 and the second round is expected to open during the 2018-19 financial year.

Smart Farms Small Grants ($50 million) range between $5,000 and $100,000 (GST exclusive) under two tiers: Tier 1 for grants between $5,000 and $50,000; and tier 2 for grants between $50,001 and $100,000.

The purposes of these grants are to:

  • increase land manager’s awareness, knowledge, capability and adoption of tools and management practices that will deliver more productive and profitable agriculture, fishing, aquaculture and farm forestry industries
  • protect Australia’s biodiversity
  • protect and improve the condition of natural resources (in particular soils and vegetation), and
  • assist Australia to meet its obligations under relevant international treaties.

Successful Round 1 projects were announced in July 2018. It is anticipated that there will be a further five annual rounds under this program.

Building Landcare Community and Capacity ($24 million) ad-hoc grants. Working directly with the Landcare community and farmer organisations, we will identify suitable activities. These activities are likely to include, but are not limited to:

  • awards and recognition for excellence among the Landcare community
  • leadership development opportunities
  • conferences and networking events
  • communication and community engagement activities and other projects that strengthen the social and technical capacity that underpins the delivery of Landcare, and
  • efforts by Landcare and farming groups to deliver on-the-ground improvements in land management.

Apply

The Smart Farming Partnerships and Smart Farm Small Grants programs are open to a range of stakeholders. Details are contained in the relevant guidelines.

Dates

The final round of Smart Farming Partnerships is expected to be open in the 2018-19 financial year.

There are a further five rounds expected of the Smart Farms Small Grants, with the next call for applications expected in 2018-19.

Register for grant opportunities

All of our grant opportunities are published on GrantConnect, the Australian Government Grants Information System. To be notified about grant opportunities, please visit GrantConnect and register at no cost to establish an account. This includes a self-defined notification profile, so you can receive information about Forecast Opportunities and Grant Opportunities that may interest you.

The Smart Farms grants are being administered by the Community Grants Hub (hosted by the Department of Social Services) on our behalf under a Whole of Australian Government initiative to streamline grant processes across agencies. The Grant Opportunity Guidelines and the application form will be made available at the Community Grants Hub website when the call for applications for round two is announced.

Support for efforts to eradicate Red Imported Fire Ants

The Australian Government is committed to the eradication of Red Imported Fire Ants (RIFA) and is providing nearly $50 million of funding from the National Landcare Program as part of its contribution to the Red Imported Fire Ants eradication program for south-east Queensland. This investment, along with state and territory governments under nationally established cost-sharing arrangements, will help the program intensify current Red Imported Fire Ant eradication efforts with the aim of full eradication over the proposed 10-year funding period.

Focus of the next 10-year RIFA South East Queensland (SEQ) Program

On 26 July 2017, Agriculture Ministers agreed to fund an enhanced $380 million eradication plan over the next 10 years. The objective remains to prevent RIFA from establishing in Australia, avoiding significant social, environmental and economic costs to Australian governments and communities. A total of $92.1 million will be applied from the National Landcare Program ($49.6 million during phase 2 of this Program) towards the Australian Government contribution to the 10 year program.

In addition to eradicating RIFA from south east Queensland, the program seeks to develop new scientific techniques and technologies for the detection, diagnosis, treatment and surveillance of RIFA. This will increase Australia’s capacity to respond to any future outbreaks of RIFA and other invasive ants in Australia.

Given the level of investment to be made by the Australian and state and territory governments, Agriculture Ministers also approved the establishment of a steering committee to provide strategic oversight of the program, as well as ensure the program receives the appropriate level of support and guidance required to increase its likelihood for success.

Key Benefits to RIFA SEQ Program

The key benefits of the program will be avoiding the impacts that are known to occur where RIFA are established, such as:

  • the significant financial cost of ongoing management
  • the cost of losses and management in agricultural industries
  • the displacement and potential extinction of native species
  • human health impacts associated with the painful sting of red imported fire ants, including anaphylactic reactions which have been known to be fatal
  • damage to infrastructure, including electrical systems, buildings and roads
  • reduced tourism and damage to popular recreational facilities.

Red Imported Fire Ants in Australia - background

RIFA are one of the world’s worst invasive species due to their devastating economic, environmental and social impacts. They pose a threat to human health, delivering a painful sting and, in some cases, causing anaphylactic shock, which can result in death. In the US state of Texas (around 100 000 km2 smaller than New South Wales), RIFA are estimated to cost US$1.2 billion each year in control, damage repair and medical care.

Australia’s worst established invasive species (rabbits, cane toads, foxes, camels, wild dogs and feral cats) collectively cost an estimated $964.4 million each year to control. Managing the impacts of RIFA, should it not be eradicated, could easily surpass this annual cost. RIFA were first detected in Brisbane in 2001, prompting a nationally cost-shared eradication program in southeast Queensland (RIFA-SEQ). There have been six incursions of RIFA in Australia, four of which have been successfully eradicated (most recently in Port Botany, New South Wales, and Yarwun, Queensland). In addition to the south east Queensland incursion, a RIFA eradication response is currently underway at Brisbane Airport (QLD), which is expected to be free from RIFA by the end of 2017.

The national capacity to deal with invasive ants continues to improve. Many valuable lessons have been learned about surveillance and detection methods, effective treatments and the engagement of local communities. This increasing knowledge and experience benefits all of the RIFA eradication programs.

Independent Review of RIFA SEQ Program

In December 2014, Agriculture Ministers commissioned an independent review of the RIFA-SEQ program, which was completed in May 2016. The independent review panel concluded eradication of RIFA remains in the national interest, and is still both technically feasible and cost beneficial ($25:1). The final report of this program directly informed the structure and agreed budget for the 10-year eradication program.

Centre for Invasive Species Solutions

The Australian Government is supporting the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre’s transition into the new Centre for Invasive Species Solutions. The new Centre is focusing on invasive species management and this investment supports the Centre and its efforts to carry out research, development and extension activities aimed at managing invasive animals and weeds. Following the conclusion of the CRC Program funding in June 2017, the Centre has continued the collaborative investment that Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre had begun in invasive species management.

Established pest animals and weeds are a chronic and stubborn problem with significant economic, environmental and social impacts for Australia. The annual economic cost of pest animal impacts is at least $1 billion, and a 2004 study estimated the agricultural cost of weeds to be nearly $4 billion per annum. Pest animals and weeds also threaten Australia’s biodiversity, and the condition of our natural resource base, by accelerating the erosion of fragile soil, stirring up waterways and reducing water quality and outcompeting or killing native species.

Available funding

The investment into Centre for Invasive Species Solutions totals $20 million (GST exclusive) over five years. We will provide $4 million for 2017-18, and the National Landcare Program will support the Centre for 2018-19 through to 2021-22 by providing $16 million.

Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IACRC) has a proven track record and, since 2005, has been successfully collaborating with government, industry, business and universities to counteract the impact of invasive animals by developing tools to control and manage invasive pest animals. For example, through IACRC, governments and industry have co-invested in a 20-year rabbit biocontrol strategy to identify and develop optimal strategies for the long-term sustained control of wild rabbits and mitigation of their impacts. This has included the identification and selection of a new virus to control wild rabbits, which was released in March 2017.

Types of projects that could be funded

The centre’s Research, Development and Extension (RD&E) activities will focus on pest animals and weeds that threaten native ecosystems, native habitats and endemic species that may also reduce Australian agricultural productivity and profitability.

The RD&E will be balanced across prevention, eradication and containment to asset based protection, with five program areas: incursions, integrated landscape management, biocontrol, management tools and systems and community engagement and education.

The RD&E priorities for the centre are consistent with the RD&E priorities identified through the Invasive Plants and Animals Committee, a cross-jurisdictional c​ommittee responsible for providing a national mechanism for identification and resolution of government policies on weeds, vertebrate pest and freshwater invertebrate pest issues.

The centre will provide collaborative RD&E program brokering, program management and capacity building through strategic facilitators, training and through integrated and targeted best practice management programs. The centre will deliver decision support tools, community mapping, surveillance and the PestSmart toolkit, which will be broadened to include weeds.

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