Chapter 6 Farm forestry
Farm forestry involves a holistic approach to integrating trees into a
farming landscape. Farm forestry has a regional emphasis, with rural and
regional Australia well placed to take up the opportunities it provides. In
essence, farm forestry provides an opportunity for farmers to get into
forestry, whilst continuing to reap benefits from their traditional farming
The Committee took evidence on the opportunities for farm forestry, the
benefits it can provide, and mechanisms for encouraging it. Some submitters
were practising farm forestry and offered examples of their experiences.
The Committee also received evidence from groups that advocated expanded farm
This chapter deals with the following areas of farm forestry:
- integrated land use;
- planting, including species and finance;
- management, including thinning;
- benefits, for the farm, the local environment, the local economy and the local community; and
- products and processes, including scaling, aggregation and the supply chain.
The conclusion addresses mechanisms for supporting farm forestry, including
innovation, financial support for planting, extension services and the Caring
for Our Country initiative.
Farm forestry provides harvest flexibility. While plantation forests and
agricultural crops have strict harvest timeframes for economic or production
reasons, forests on farms do not necessarily have to be harvested in any given
year. Farm forestry trees are intentionally integrated into farmland and
provide multiple benefits whilst growing, in addition to the potential for harvested
timber and wood products. If the harvesting of trees is delayed, they continue
to grow, often becoming more valuable, and continue to provide incidental
benefits to the farm.
Integrated land use
Integrating different land uses—particularly forestry and agriculture—is
a way of maximising productivity and minimising risk. Well-planned integration
of trees or forests can compliment agricultural systems. The Committee heard evidence
that integrating different land uses is an ongoing activity, not a ‘trees in,
trees out’ equation.
The Committee heard evidence that these land uses should not be considered to
be in competition.
The Committee received evidence from Mr Andrew Lang, Director of the SMARTimbers
Cooperative, that integrated farm forestry could substantially increase the
forest area in Australia:
We can develop a model of integrated farm forestry that would
result in up to 10 million ha of dispersed woodlots being planted across
existing farms ...
In addition, Mr Lang contended that farm forestry increased land
Where the planting is integrated into a farm layout as a
multi-purpose planting (a wide strip woodlot possibly with some mixture of
species) for shelter, habitat, aesthetics, wood, biomass, salinity mitigation,
carbon sequestration, etc) the space planted should be more than offset by a
lift in overall farm productivity.
Mr Lang also noted that as trees are not a single-year crop, farm
forestry has the potential to:
... provide an alternate income that is not [linked] to
regular agricultural cycles.
This element of risk management was reiterated to the Committee by Mr
Andrew Stewart, Coordinator of the Otway Agroforestry Network (OAN). Mr Stewart
also noted the multiple benefits of integrated land uses:
As a farmer I am probably more passionate about agroforests
than at the beginning because I now see more advantages coming out of the
woodwork in different ways. It is just a fantastic opportunity; if we can get
the policy settings correct we can have all these wonderful advantages in a
multidimensional landscape which has food security and robust and resilient
landscapes in the face of climate change, and that whole risk management
perspective would be catered for.
The submission by Australian Forest Growers (AFG) concluded that farm
... an elegant solution.
A representative of Private Forests Tasmania (PFT) reiterated that
private forestry has the potential to make a substantial contribution to the
Australian forestry industry, and called farm forestry:
... ‘a sleeping giant’.
Farm forestry demonstrates that trees can and should be planted for
multiple purposes, including the harvesting of timber and wood products. The
Committee heard that the key issue for farmers when considering planting trees
for production farm forestry was the confidence or certainty in a market.
This will develop with time. This aspect is discussed in the scaling,
aggregation and the supply chain section of this chapter. The Committee also
heard evidence relating to species and finance.
The Committee heard evidence on species selection and breeding. Species
need to be suitable for the location and conditions in which they will be
grown. The Committee heard numerous examples of species selection and
viability. Some examples of this came from farm forestry groups in Victoria,
providing evidence on suitable species for their regions. This demonstrates
that species selection is a complex and important issue for farm forestry.
Mr Phil Dyson, Technical and Scientific Program Leader of the Northern
United Forestry Group (NUFG), indicated that Eucalyptus occidentalis (Flat-topped
Yate or Swamp Yate) is productive in saline areas.
Mr James Williams, Member of the NUFG, also nominated Eucalyptus cladocalyx
(Sugar Gum) as a versatile structural timber product.
The submission from Farmed Forests of the North East (FFORNE) noted that
farm forestry could grow the major plantation species in Victoria, Eucalyptus
globulos (Tasmanian Blue Gum) and Pinus radiata (Radiata Pine), as
well as Eucalyptus cladocalyx (Sugar Gum, particularly in low rainfall
areas), Corymbia maculata (Spotted Gum), Eucalyptus muellerana
(Yellow Stringybark), Acacia melanoxylon (Blackwood), Eucalyptus tricarpa
(Red Ironbark, also in low rainfall areas) and Eucalyptus camaldulensis (River
The Committee heard from Mr Lang that research and development into seed
production has not been consistently supported. 
Mr Stewart noted that the OAN maintains a seed orchard, with some trees also
being managed for sawlogs. Mr Rankin indicated that
there were seed orchards in the Bendigo area.
The CSIRO provided evidence on the work on species that it has been
CSIRO and others have invested in testing and domesticating
tree species suited for farm forestry beyond the traditional plantation regions
over the last 15 years, especially in the temperate wheat-sheep belt. Parallel
work has been carried out to develop appropriate silviculture, and to match the
species under development to different site types. Improved breeds of trees now
exist that are suited to a diverse and geographically large area of farmland in
southern Australia (Harwood et al. 2007).
The evidence that the Committee received about species selection
demonstrates the need for further research and development to indicate appropriate
species for different locations and to continue tree breeding to improve the
characteristics of available species.
The Committee heard evidence that farmers are held back by the cost of
planting trees. Estimates varied depending on requirements such as fencing, but
Mr Dyson and Mr Lang both indicated a cost of $2,000 per hectare.
Mr Perry noted that small plantations, which farm forestry focuses on, have proportionally
higher costs than large plantations.
Representatives of the OAN noted that although there might be a large
initial outlay, a narrow focus on harvest yield is not as applicable to
multiple-use forests as it is to single-use forests.
Mr Reid noted that farm forestry can be envisaged as a natural capital asset:
... if you look at the trees as part of the farming
infrastructure—like putting in a laneway or even building a shearing shed—the
structure of the forest on the property reduces the risks of the farming system
and complements the farming system. It is therefore a capital asset.
The Committee notes that there are some
areas needing further clarity about the treatment of such assets by the taxation
system, including in relation to depreciation.
Mr Lang also noted that the economics of farm forestry is different to
the economics of landscape forestry, as farm forestry does not displace
production. This view that farm
forestry is a capital investment and not simply a crop is linked to the concept
of integrated land use and the multiple benefits farm forestry can provide.
Private Forests Tasmania (PFT) advocates the use of joint ventures to
make it feasible for landholders to engage in private forestry (farm forestry
and other private forest developments):
Developing new forests requires considerable upfront
investment and the maintenance and protection of these forests can also be
expensive. Many landowners do not have the financial resources to sustain this
type of development on their farms. For many years industrial forestry
companies developed joint ventures with private landowners whereby proportional
ownership of the forest crop was based on the relative value of inputs to the
development by each party, including the value of the land. Importantly, the
resulting link with a market gave the landowner some confidence to participate
in this style of forestry.
To increase farm forestry planting, Australian Forest Growers (AFG) suggests
possible options such as 150% tax deductibility, infrastructure or plantation
bonds, direct grant funding, concessionary taxation provision at for-harvest
income. Mrs Diana Lloyd, Director
of AFG, explained why the organisation supports a greater level of tax deductibility:
AFG promotes a model whereby integration of trees into
existing and ongoing farming systems would attract a greater level of tax
deductibility to offset the disincentive of the establishment cost and long
period until harvest.
The Committee received evidence to suggest that joint ventures or
leasing land to forestry companies could provide the required finance for farm
forestry investments. This would assist in the
expansion of the farm forestry estate, however it may not suit all farmers. The
Committee encourages multiple approaches to farm forestry finance, depending on
the requirements of individual farmers.
The management of farm forestry plantings has two facets—management for
production and management for the farm. The Committee heard that management is
essential if the aim is to produce high quality sawlogs. Thinning and pruning
are most important for high value products such as sawlogs, and less important
for low value products such as pulp.
Farm forestry has harvest flexibility when compared to industrial
forestry, as trees are providing multiple benefits while growing. The Otway
Agroforestry Network (OAN) particularly noted that time is not a constraint for
The Committee also received evidence that a well-managed farm forest can
be ‘worth owning’ as a forest, providing benefits to the farm while
appreciating in value. The potential for production remains, but there is not a
predetermined time for harvesting:
If silvicultural management (thinning and pruning)
complements other values (biodiversity, fires protection, grazing, aesthetics
etc) there is little cost in maintaining the option of a future harvest of high
quality logs. Indeed, if a forest is worth owning, there is less pressure for a
The potential for production farm forestry depends on effective
management techniques. These techniques can be taught through farm forestry
extension services, which are often provided by local organisations. This will
be discussed towards the end of the chapter.
The Committee received evidence regarding thinning practices, markets
and machinery. Mr Lang indicated that thinning could and should be done
sustainably, to protect the surrounding environment:
... if you are going to be thinning those trees, you want to
have the shelter in them. [in one example] the farmer has put two rows of
biodiverse plantings that will stay there when the inner trees are thinned, so
the wind is still going up and over the top.
Mr Lang also noted that a market is developing for thinning products:
We know we have worked out a system for thinning, for
marketing and for getting some money back—and there is light on the horizon for
getting money back from thinning, maybe through bioenergy or through a better
way of selling firewood and other material. That first and second thinning is
selling into either the firewood market or the post and pole market; there is
A concern raised by other farm forestry organisations regarded the
machinery required for thinning. Mr Ian Rankin, President of the Northern
United Forestry Group (NUFG), explained that he had needed to adapt machinery
to perform small-scale thinning:
... I ended up managing to purchase a second-hand piece of
equipment and having it reengineered to make it into a small harvester so I
could then mount it onto a smaller excavator, which I run as an earthmoving
business. It would be great if some of these other companies that bring in the
big industrial equipment started focusing on the smaller-scale harvesting and
smaller-scale machinery, because it is starting to get more popular and it will
become more popular for the smaller plantations.
The relative absence of machinery for small-scale farm forestry
operations, particularly for thinning, reveals a gap in the market. While the
Committee encourages adaption and innovation, this machinery is available
overseas. One way of purchasing machinery could be for farm foresters to form
cooperatives and share the machinery as it is required.
Benefits of farm forestry
The Committee found that there are many, varied benefits of farm
forestry. The Committee is encouraged by the opportunities that farm forestry
can provide to farms, as well as the local environment, economy and community. Additionally,
farm forestry provides an opportunity for farmers to improve resilience and
sustainability through diversification, innovation and risk management.
Mr Andrew Stewart, Coordinator of the Otway Agroforestry Network (OAN),
stated that farm forestry provided flexibility for farmers as well as benefits
to multiple sectors:
So over time you get this mosaic of different activities
suiting the needs of the farmers, industry gets its scale, government gets its
outcome and we retain our rural communities and they are supported.
Farm forestry has many benefits to individual farms. These fall into
three categories: land and water quality, economic and aesthetic.
Land and water quality benefits include:
- improving biodiversity and ecology;
- reducing windspeed;
- preventing and mitigating wind erosion;
- protecting crops and providing shelter for stock;
- producing seed and controlling pests;
- reducing evaporation;
- preventing and mitigating water erosion;
- addressing excess groundwater and dryland salinity;
- preventing and mitigating land degradation; and
- sequestering carbon.
These land and water quality benefits then flow on to the local
environment, as discussed below.
Economic benefits include an opportunity for diversification, risk
management, innovation, longer rotation crops and superannuation.
Another economic benefit is the appreciating value of well-managed forests:
We argue that, rather than just being a crop, forests are a
capital asset, part of the landscape or farm infrastructure.
The submission from Northern United Forestry Group (NUFG) highlights the
diversification opportunities available to farmers through farm forestry:
Farm forestry, as opposed to broad acre plantation forestry,
affords landholders the opportunity to have ‘a foot in several camps’.
Aesthetic benefits include making the farm a ‘nicer’ place to live and
work, which can also have financial benefits, as indicated by NUFG.
This was also noted by Mr John Lord:
Dr Jacki Schirmer and her students from the Australian
National University conducted research that showed that well placed plantings
of trees on farms around Canberra added 30% to the capital values of the farms
investigated. They found this increase in value had nothing to do with any
change in the farms’ productive capacity: it was due to the aesthetics. This
(at least) 10% is available “for free” because of the non wood benefits,
notably the shelter effect the trees provide. These benefits become apparent
from when the trees are only a few years old. A farm with shelter belts is a
much nicer environment in which to work on a bad weather day. The livestock and
grass and crops behave as though they appreciate it too.”
Farm forestry affords farmers the opportunity to build resilience
through land and water quality, economic and aesthetic benefits. These benefits
also apply more broadly to the local environment, local economy and local
Local environmental benefits
Farm forestry provides various benefits to the local environment. In
addition to the benefits briefly mentioned above, the Committee heard evidence
on wildlife corridors, salinity mitigation and waterway restoration.
Wildlife corridors enable animals to more easily move from one habitat
to another. As noted, this is a public
benefit of farm forestry:
Enhanced protection of flora and fauna is a public benefit.
All of the discussion around those public benefits at the moment is looking at
corridors of vegetation that link this bunch of public land with that bunch of
public land and provide the ability for flora and fauna to move across the
Mr Lang also noted that the planting of wood lots has seen the return of
resident populations of grey kangaroos to areas around Ballarat.
The Committee heard evidence from Northern United Forestry Group (NUFG).
The organisation rehabilitated land affected by dryland salinity at Kamarooka,
Victoria. The saline water table had risen, degrading the landscape and
preventing crops from growing. NUFG planted halophytic (salt-tolerant)
vegetation on the most saline land, and mixed acacia and eucalypt plantations
on the less saline land. These plantings lowered the water table, reducing the
salinity of the land and restoring agricultural productivity. 
NUFG emphasised the environmental and community success of the ongoing project:
The NUFG Kamarooka project demonstrates that production can
be achieved through the integration of trees, halophytic vegetation and traditional
agriculture. Moreover, it demonstrates what can be achieved when local
communities work together to restore the land.
Waterway restoration is another environmental benefit that can be
provided during thinning or at harvest. Mr Reid explained the principle of
harvesting trees and leaving the top of the tree in the creek to restore
We could probably sell the top for pulp, but it is hardly
worth doing. [...] Research from CRC for Catchment and Hydrology has proven
that we do not have enough deadwood [large woody debris] in our waterways to
create the habitat elements and the stream dynamics traditionally there.
Planting trees alone on the banks does not create that; it has to be created
either through time or management. And there is no reason why management of
this type cannot hasten the period it takes to get that woody debris in the
As Mr Reid noted, this is a practice suited to the management of creeks
that run through privately owned farmland. Improving the ecological health of
waterways has wider environmental benefits. These examples show that carefully
managed farm forestry can have positive impacts on the local environment.
Local economic benefits
Farm forestry also provides benefits to the local economy, particularly additional
income for farmers and employment for locals.  These employment
opportunities are generally located in rural and regional Australia. Mr Lang
indicated that the SMARTimbers Cooperative generated extensive economic
benefits for the local area:
... we have generated maybe $1 million worth of gross income
for the product, but we have spun off another half a million to the truckers,
the fellers, the profilers, the mills and so on. It shows that a very, very
small production can still have a major impact. People react to seeing that
genuine product flow rather than just talk about a product flow sometime in the
Developing local industries and economies can provide positive local
Local community benefits
Farm forestry provides benefits to the local community, particularly in rural
and regional Australia. Community engagement is a vital component of
ecologically sustainable forest management. Farmed Forests of the North East (FFORNE)
advocates involving the community in farm forestry, stating that farm forestry
can reduce conflict over land and water.
Another community-based farm forestry group, NUFG, emphasised the local
scale and local initiative that was important to that community’s success with
We are fairly passionate about community based farm forestry.
What does that mean? It means groups like ourselves actually take the
initiative and go out there and try to bring it all together at a local
community scale, because that is the scale that we work at and we are quite
good at that.
FFORNE also indicated that an increase in farm forestry would improve
the level of understanding of the forestry industry and its benefits, thus
reducing conflict between the industry and the community. Additionally, FFORNE stated
that rural communities see farm forestry as beneficial and positive. 
Farm forestry not only benefits the community, but community involvement and
integration has real benefits for the forestry industry. The Otway Agroforestry
Network (OAN) and Master TreeGrower Program (MTG) also stated that involving
the farming community would generally build community support for the forestry
Various harvested wood products can be produced through farm forestry,
as one of the end benefits of integrated land use activities. The Tasmanian
Farmers and Graziers Association’s (TFGA) view on production forests was that
trees provide benefits over their lifespan, but that trees must be seen as
ultimately a crop to be harvested. Replanting after harvest makes forests
Our philosophy is that, if you have to plant a tree,
eventually, when it comes to the end of its life or its most optimum time, it
should be able to be utilised for some income. That way it becomes a perpetual
As Mr Dickenson, Member of the Forestry Reference Group, TFGA, added, farm
forestry and private forestry cannot rely on government or philanthropic
support for tree planting. Farm forestry can
produce rough-sawn and finished wood products such as firewood, decking,
boardwalks, building poles, jetty poles, posts, fencing, pulpwood and veneers.
Wood waste can also be used for bioenergy, for example, local wood waste could
be used to generate electricity for local towns or cities. 
Mr Reid notes the opportunities for farmers to provide high-value
products such as sawlogs, because of the harvest flexibility:
With regard to plantations, I have done a lot of work with
various people right around Australia on growing eucalypt sawlogs. It is
clearly possible but, when it comes to long rotations, we know that time
improves the quality of timber and it improves the economics with regard to the
viability of harvesting. Time is clearly the issue that confronts many investors
in forestry: they are not prepared to do it. My view has always been that we
need to find people in the community prepared to wait. We have suggested that
farmers might be the ones. We also need to find people prepared to wait for
durable timbers in marginal areas, which may take longer. So if they are
prepared to wait, we can get a suite of values that cannot be delivered by
conventional forestry in plantations.
In addition to wood products, farm forestry can also produce non-wood
forest products, such as seed, honey and mushrooms. 
Scaling, aggregation and the supply chain
The small scale of farm forestry can mean that relative costs are higher
and outputs are lower than large scale forestry. Small scale productions face
increased costs along the entire production chain.
The success of farm forestry also depends on access to markets.
This is particularly difficult for small, diverse and dispersed farm forestry
operations, as domestic and export wood processing industries seek large,
ongoing resource supply and security.
Boral Timber confirmed that it does source some timber from farm forestry, but noted
that this option was constrained by the fragmentation of the resource and the
lower management standard compared to state forests.
Additionally, inadequate infrastructure in rural and regional areas can inhibit
However, targeting niche markets and engaging in value-adding practices
can provide farm forestry with a competitive advantage in the market.
Dr Jacki Schirmer provided a summary of the economic advantages and
disadvantages of small scale farm forestry:
In general, farm forestry presents challenges for economies
of scale. It can be highly successful for growing small scale high quality
products sold into niche markets, or lower cost products that are easily
harvestable and/or sold into local markets. It is unlikely to be able to
compete in terms of large scale wood production for commodity products, due to
difficulty in achieving the economies of scale required to lower production costs
to a level where farm forestry wood products are competitive.
Mr Lang gave the example of small scale farm forestry in Scandinavia and
noted the absence of machinery required for this type of forestry in Australia.
He stated that SMARTimbers has:
... been looking at the machinery and other gear for doing
thinning, lift pruning et cetera [...] I am in Scandinavia once a year at the
moment. Scandinavian forestry is generally small scale, harvests of one to two
hectares, using these thinning-size machines that there is only one of in
Australia. It was brought out on the initiative of the owner. The sorts of
machines that are available in Sweden and Finland are the sort of thing that we
need to get. That has to be done preferably by a contractor. It needs to be an
owner-operator. It is a bit tricky moving things from place to place.”
The Committee heard that cooperative approaches to localised farm
forestry are gaining momentum. These approaches mean that equipment can be
shared and tasks can be contracted out. Representatives from the
OAN noted that cooperative approaches have the added benefit of building a
sense of community.
Case study—Otway Agroforestry Network
The Otway Agroforestry Network (OAN) is a community landcare organisation
that promotes the integration of trees into farms through education and
awareness programs. The Committee heard evidence from representatives of the
OAN, farm foresters themselves, providing an overview of the organisation’s
aims and progress:
... we always focus on looking for opportunities to fit
forestry—or multipurpose tree growing, we like to say—within the farming
landscape rather than replacing the farming landscape, which has been a bit of
the model to date.
This approach focuses on improving the sustainability and resilience of
farms and farmers:
Our emphasis has always been on looking at the farming issues
first, such as erosion, and saying how could forestry actually deliver outcomes
that the farmers want, so what you see is forests almost in the mirror image of
where a plantation forester would put them and manage them for multiple
outcomes through that process. The real question is: can that be commercial? In
marrying these two or three benefits—agricultural, environmental and timber
production—this is the point that we are currently at.
Mr Stewart also reiterated that the organisation has demonstrated that
forestry can be complimentary to agriculture, giving the example of increases
in production on his farm:
We are producing the same number of livestock and the same
quantity—90 tonnes—of sheep meats and so on, but we are also producing 200
tonnes of trees for commercial benefit into the future; and there is a
Case study—SMARTimbers Cooperative
The Committee heard evidence from Mr Andrew Lang, Director of the
SMARTimbers Cooperative, explaining the Cooperative’s creation of a localised
forestry sector. Mr Lang provided a brief history of the Cooperative:
SMARTimbers started in 2002. It had a prior process going
back to about 1996 through the Colac office of the DPI, where we were looking
at sugar gum. This is a very successful lower-rainfall species that was growing
all around us, and no-one was using it for anything other than firewood. It
proved that you could grow quality saw logs on poor country with lower rainfall
without a problem, even when it was unmanaged. We began buying logs off
woodcutters and we would get them milled up. We turned them, firstly, into furniture
timbers and then we realised that the market was really in the decking,
flooring and cladding area, where you could produce with a much larger process.
Where we start the tour tomorrow looks at that side of it.
Mr Lang noted that it was difficult to get funding, but explained that the
existence of a market led to an increase in farm forestry plantings in the
The outcome was that from 2002 until about 2008 this
timber—this particular species that had not been planted in farm forestry
across southern Australia since 1936—became the most planted lower-rainfall
eucalypt species in WA, South Australia and Victoria to the extent that about
8,000 hectares has been planted off a base of zero. It just shows what the
response is when landowners or maybe state government or the networks get a
sign that there is some reason to have confidence in a timber species and an
The Committee conducted inspections in the Ballarat area in the company
of Mr Lang. These included visits to a sugar gum seed orchard, various farm
forestry operations, a mill and an electric gasifier. These inspections
demonstrated that a local cooperative can plant, manage and harvest trees for
farm, environmental, economic and community benefits, as well as to produce
forest products and generate energy.
Conclusions—supporting farm forestry
The Committee heard evidence indicating that the take up of farm
forestry has been limited, despite government investment.
As noted above, the provision of and access to appropriate regional infrastructure
is fundamental for commercially viable farm forestry to be widespread. This is
a matter that will need a cooperative inter-governmental approach, and the Committee
believes that COAG is best placed to agree a national plan for the provision
of, and access to, enabling infrastructure for farm forestry.
||The Committee recommends the Australian Government, through
COAG, lead a process to agree a national plan for the provision of, and access
to, enabling infrastructure for farm forestry.
Less tangibly, the expansion of farm forestry will also rely on further innovation,
and the provision of extension services to increase farmers’ knowledge of farm
forestry practices, and opportunities to get involved. Supporting farm forestry
particularly involves engaging with local community organisations and using
existing Government programs, such as the Australian Government’s Caring for Our
The Committee received extensive evidence suggesting different
priorities for innovation, particularly through research and development.
Much of this evidence emphasised the need for research to be practical and
outcome-focused, such as species selection, harvesting practices and development
of suitable machinery. Mr Reid indicated that research did not necessarily have
to be expensive, original research, but needed to utilise existing resources
and form practical solutions:
We need to engage the research more with the farming
community, looking at what some of the issues are. For example, the harvesting
of trees in sensitive land care planting is a research question about how you
can do it in a way that enhances outcomes rather than threatening some of the
biodiversity outcomes. These questions are still there. It should pick up from
hydrology, salinity and biodiversity research [...] It is a matter of bringing
information together and engaging with the farming community to explore how
that might be relevant to them. That is really important.
The Committee was encouraged by local organisations that had conducted
research and engaged with the local community about results. Members of the Northern
United Forestry Group (NUFG), for example, report on environmental data
collected in the local area at the organisation’s monthly meeting. Due to high
levels of interest, the organisation is investing in an education centre to
further connect research with the community.
Financial assistance for planting
The Committee received some evidence indicating that direct incentives
are not the best way to support farm forestry; rather that government support
needs to be indirect and delivered over time. One suggestion from OAN was to
support ‘peer group mentoring’ through the Master TreeGrower Program.
This is a way of providing financial assistance to existing local
organisations. However, larger organisations called for financial incentives
for establishment, as farm forestry is a ‘sunrise’ industry.
Some evidence expressed support for joint ownership structures to encourage
The Committee heard evidence calling for improved extension services for
farm forestry, utilising state agencies or organisations, and existing
localised support networks. The Committee heard
evidence on the benefits of the Master TreeGrower Program. This is an
... trains leading tree growers and pays them to support
others in their community through the development and management of multipurpose
forests has proved popular with farmers and appears to be delivering real
The Master TreeGrower Program is aimed to ‘build capacity’ and aims to
involve the community in developing concepts and making decisions about land
management. It also involves ‘peer
group mentoring’, a way of enhancing knowledge and skills as well as building
relationships in local communities. Mr Peter Rutherford
highlighted the importance of engaging farmers and building relationships:
A lack of the necessary understanding of how integration can
be achieved is not widely held in the broader farming community. An aging
farming population exacerbates this situation.
Successful examples commonly involve landowners who have an enthusiasm for the
diversification and integration of farming operations and who also establish
alliances with likeminded farmers and with potential purchasers of the forestry
The Institute of Foresters of Australia supports this program, and
called for its expansion:
The Master Tree Growers programme has been successful
training for farmers but limited in extent. Support of expansion and
acceleration of the Master Tree Growing programme potentially in collaboration
with Universities should be encouraged.
Other groups, such as Private Forests Tasmania (PFT), provide one-on-one
extension as well as holding open days to showcase integrated land use:
There are many farmers who are aware of the value of private
forestry and the potential for that to contribute to their farming businesses
and to their communities, but there are far more who are still, I believe,
unaware of that opportunity. One of the objectives I have for our organisation
is to operate at a higher level, where we work with progressive farmers who
have adopted a forestry integrated approach in their landscape and have
developed extension type activities, where we can have large field days where
we can invite many people to see the benefits of private forests integrated
into farming and the benefits that accrue to their other activities so that we
can touch the lives of as many farmers as possible.
Furthermore, farm forestry requires local communities to be engaged in
decision-making. The Committee received substantial evidence recommending that
farm forestry be supported by partnerships between local organisations and
natural resource management agencies.
The Committee received evidence calling for governments to support local
community organisations or cooperatives as a means of promoting farm forestry,
supporting research and development, and providing extension services.
Caring for our Country initiative
DAFF’s submission also indicated the broader approach to landscape-scale
conservation through the Caring for our Country initiative:
Through the Caring for our Country initiative, in the
Sustainable Farm Practices national priority area the Australian Government has
committed to improving landscape scale conservation through farmers adopting
activities that contribute to the ongoing conservation and protection of biodiversity.
Farm forestry, as a land use, is recognised as contributing to this outcome and
support is available to groups, including regional natural resource management
bodies to assist farmers implement farm forestry.
The Australian Plantation Products and Paper Industry Council’s (A3P)
submission to the inquiry called for these government initiatives to be
promoted and delivered:
... resourcing and implementation of the Farm Forestry
National Action Statement, and official recognition that commercial trees in
farm forestry enterprises can contribute to achieving the objectives of Caring
for Our Country ...
Farm forestry supports at least three of the six National Priority Areas
of the Caring for our Country initiative:
- sustainable farm practices (as noted above);
- biodiversity and natural icons; and
- community skills, knowledge and engagement.
Activities to encourage
and facilitate farm forestry should clearly be eligible for funding under this
The Committee believes that the Caring for our Country initiative should
enable fences funded under landcare programs to be moved further away from
riparian zones, enabling additional rows of trees to be planted for
The Committee believes that the immediate and ongoing funding of
extension services is one of the best ways to encourage greater uptake of farm
forestry around Australia. The Master Tree Grower programme is a good model for
extension, as it uses a peer-support structure, ensuring that knowledge is shared
between farm foresters. By funding existing local networks and community
organisations, governments can provide the kind of financial support that will
enable farmers and farmers groups to drive the expansion of farm forestry
across the country. Governments must make sure that the eligibility of farm
forestry activities for such funding is explicit and well publicised.
In respect of the Australian Government, the Committee believes that
Caring for Our Country is the best way to deliver this funding, and strongly
encourages local organisations, land managers and farmers to engage with the
Caring for our Country initiative.
||The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, in
concert with state and local governments, provide immediate and ongoing
financial support to local organisations that provide extension services for
farm forestry, particularly through the Caring for our Country initiative.
||The Committee recommends that the Australian Government
explicitly state that Caring for our Country funding is available for farm
forestry activities, and actively promote this fact to the broader community
through an extensive information campaign.
Farm forestry provides an opportunity for farmers to get into forestry.
Farmers who integrate forestry into their land management activities are able to
access many environmental and economic benefits. Many of the opportunities for
farm forestry are substantial, and currently under recognised. There are also
considerable benefits that go ‘beyond the farm gate’, including to the local
environment, economy and community. Forestry on farms can be seen as a ‘natural
capital asset’, and the Committee believes there should be greater clarity
about how the taxation system treats this kind of asset, including in relation
There are many ways to encourage the expansion of farm forestry, but the
Committee has focussed on two major possibilities: the Carbon Farming
Initiative, and Caring for Our Country. In both cases, the Committee believes
that further work is needed to ensure that these programs can effectively
support farm forestry, and looks forward to seeing this work done.
The scale of farm forestry means that it is not immediately able to
contribute a large volume of timber and wood products to the Australian and
International market. However, the Committee believes that, given the right
infrastructure and coordination, farm forestry can make a substantial
contribution to Australia’s timber and wood products supply. In addition, there
is a promising role for farm forestry in small, niche markets, as well as
providing an opportunity for farmers to diversify, build resilience and invest
in long-term assets.
The Committee would like to thank all the farm foresters who made submissions
to the inquiry, and those who gave evidence at its hearings. The Committee was
impressed by the passion and entrepreneurial spirit of these individuals and
groups, and commends them for their contribution to both farming and forestry.
Farm forestry is a very promising part of the forestry industry, and the
Committee looks forward to seeing more of it in future.