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Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Strategy

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Regional Catchment Strategy 2013-2019

Strategic objective: To adapt to increased farm production

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What this will mean:  The natural resource base upon which future agricultural production depends is sustained and enhanced.

Food production and processing are significant contributors to the Catchment's economy and are important regional employers. These sectors face many challenges, including domestic and global pressures 'to produce more with less', whilst remaining profitable in the face of emerging scarcities of many inputs needed to produce good food: water, land, nutrients, oil, technology, skills, finance and stable climates. The region is losing about one per cent of its farmland every year to other land uses. 

Only one-fifth of Victorian farms are considered large enough to fund the level of farm investment required for productivity growth and provide an average standard of living for a full-time farming family (Barr 2012). The demand for increased production in the face of variable trade and climatic conditions will continue to put pressure on future farm investment. Responses to the likely significant changes in the farming landscape need to be prepared. For example, new opportunities for increased production or different products that considers the trend towards reliance on off-farm income can be explored. This includes opportunities from changes in the types of farm ownership (towards part-time farming, absentee and lifestyle-driven ownership).

Potential impacts on natural assets from the drive to increase farm production are exacerbated by pressures generated by the other drivers and responses described earlier in this chapter. For example, water security and quality policies and responses, soil improvement, invasive plant and animal control, fire and flood management and continued habitat loss and degradation all put pressure on farm productivity and sustainability. Rainfall in 2010 and 2011 resulted in the re-emergence of high watertables across intensively irrigated areas of the Catchment, confirming the ongoing threat of salinity.

Sustainable grpwth in agricultural production that balances economic and environmental needs is an RCS priority (Table 7).

Table 7.  Whole-of-Catchment scale strategic priorities to adapt to increased farm production

Context

Management measure

Soils in the Shepparton Irrigation Region are threatened by water logging and soil salinisation (as described in the Agricultural Floodplains SES section of Chapter three).

Strategic priority: Manage risks to agricultural production

Deliver surface and sub-surface drainage works across a modernised irrigation delivery system, including adaptive shallow groundwater management

Agricultural practices that increase productivity while not degrading natural assets are needed. This requires increased understanding of soil biology, crop science, nutrient recycling, and soil, water, energy and carbon conservation in the context of sustainability and resilience.

Strategic priority: Establish sustainable agricultural practices

Management measures related to sustainable agricultural practices are described in Agricultural Floodplains, Productive Plains and Upland Slopes SESs sections of Chapter three.

Native vegetation communities that grow on soils suited for agriculture have been extensively cleared and are generally threatened. Remaining patches of native vegetation provide significant habitat and other ecosystem services and need to be protected and enhanced.

Strategic priority: Increase biodiversity in agricultural land use

Management measures related to biodiversity are described in Agricultural Floodplains, Productive Plains and Upland Slopes SESs sections of Chapter three.