What is sustainable agriculture?

    Sustainable agriculture is farming within the land's capability - to conserve natural resources such as soil, water and biodiversity that are essential for productive and viable agriculture - without causing permanent or long-lasting damage. To be truly sustainable, agriculture must also be economically viable and socially responsible.

    Why a Sustainable Agriculture Strategy?

    The Tweed Community Strategic Plan 2013 - 2023 identifies the need to foster a viable farming community and improve the environmental capacity of Tweed farmland.

    A Sustainable Agriculture Strategy will enable Council, industry and the community to respond to a range of needs in the farming community, including education, research and extension, capacity building and on-ground works that will contribute to more sustainable and prosperous farming communities. A strategy enables Council to define this commitment and its scope of involvement with farmers, businesses, community groups and food consumers.

    What can be achieved through a Sustainable Agriculture Strategy?

    The strategy will identify and prioritise actions to:

    • protect the agricultural landscapes of the Tweed and repair past damage

    • conserve and enhance the productivity of Tweed agricultural lands

    • boost the capacity of Tweed agricultural land to achieve environmental goals

    • maintain and enhance Tweed's waterways, catchments and natural areas

    • improve opportunities for residents to access fresh, affordable and healthy produce grown in the Tweed

    • foster strong, cohesive and cooperative rural communities

    • build capacity through education, engagement and collaboration

    • source funding to deliver these actions

    How does the strategy fit with other Council strategies?

    The strategy will complement a number of other strategies recently developed or being developed by Council.

    The Sustainable Agriculture Strategy focuses on helping primary producers manage their natural resources for productivity benefits, while the Rural Land Strategy currently being developed aims to define the types of development that should occur in Tweed Shire's rural-zoned lands.

    The Economic Development Strategy identifies actions to develop a more innovative and resilient agricultural sector through agribusiness-related activities.

    The Sustainable Agriculture Strategy will also aim to align with priorities identified in specific industry strategic plans.

    When will the strategy be finalised and implemented?

    A draft strategy will be presented to the elected councillors by early 2016 and placed on exhibition for up to three months. Submissions received during the exhibition period will be considered in the process of preparing a final strategy.

    It is anticipated the strategy will be implemented over a five-year period, with evaluations and reviews to be conducted during this period to ensure the actions remain current and relevant.

    Success will also depend on sufficient resourcing to implement the actions identified in the strategy, as well as cooperation from stakeholders.

    What have industry and the community said so far about sustainable agriculture?

    Consultation for the strategy has been ongoing since a discussion paper was released in September 2011. The community has also spoken strongly about agricultural issues during the development of the Tweed Rural Land Strategy.

    The community’s views on sustainable agriculture and, more broadly, rural land use are diverse and sometimes opposing. Overall, the community wants to see a prosperous agricultural sector that looks after the natural resource base. Tweed residents have spoken of their concern about environmental impacts of conventional farming systems.

    Residents want easy access to fresh, affordable local food supported by a local farming community in ways that maintain and enhance the natural environment. They want to see consumers reconnect with the food system.

    Some rural landholders identified a need to relax subdivision and dwelling entitlement laws to enable generational succession, provide housing for farm workers or allow for rental income to supplement declining farm income. Others want agricultural land protected from further development and farmed by the next generation of young farmers.

    Landholders want to find new ways to use rural land, including alternative worker and holiday accommodation options, new forms of share farming and new forms of cooperative land ownership.

    New and experienced producers want to be kept informed of the latest research and technologies and want help to incorporate them into their own farming systems. They also want council policies to be more flexible to foster innovation in farm business.