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Gippsland farmers lead way with EMS project.

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AFFA03/036T - 20 June 2003

Gippsland farmers lead way with EMS project

AFFA03/036T 20 June 2003

Gippsland beef and lamb farmers will be able to substantiate their 'clean and green' credentials more easily under a Commonwealth Government funded program, Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Senator Judith Troeth said today.

Launching the first of 15 pilots under the National EMS Pilot Program, Senator Troeth said the pilots honoured a 2001election commitment made by the Howard Government to help Australian farmers improve production efficiencies, ensure sustainability - of their properties and the wider environment - and strengthen market access.

"The program is part of the Commonwealth's Natural Heritage Trust, and is designed to further develop Environmental Management Systems (EMS) as an innovative business tool for Australia's primary producers," Senator Troeth said.

"The Commonwealth has provided up to $8.5 million to fund the 15 projects across Australia under the Environmental Management Systems National Pilot Program.

"I am delighted that Gippsland Natural Group already sells branded produce as 'clean and green' leading the way for other producers," the Senator said. "This pilot has been granted more than $300,000 - enabling an additional 60 producers to join the alliance."

Senator Troeth said, while the project would focus on local markets, it would provide good insights into how EMS might be used as a marketing tool recognised by Australian retailers and consumers.

"The 15 pilots offer an opportunity for primary producers to demonstrate that improved environmental outcomes can be achieved without the need for regulation, and just as importantly, allow them to verify this claim," Senator Troeth said.

"There is no doubt that urban Australia is demanding more say in how the natural resources of this country are used, and this will have a increasing impact on our primary production sector," the Senator said.

"However, it is important to recognise how much our primary producers are already doing to ensure that they responsibly manage the natural resource base, while improving their farm efficiencies.

"The pilot projects have been selected for their capacity to determine whether EMS can draw together a range of planning and informational

tools," the Senator said. "This includes NRM targets for catchments and best practice management where it really counts - on the ground.

"The projects will also give us a much better understanding of how EMS and quality assurance schemes, and best management practice guides can be integrated to assist farmers address these important issues."

The EMS National Pilot Program is underpinned by the National Framework for EMS in Agriculture - a comprehensive guide for coordinating and supporting the voluntary use of EMS in Australia,

Further media inquiries:

Senator Troeth's office: Allison Murphy (02) 6277 3002 or 0408 917 639.