Should regen ag be certified?

Should regen ag be certified?

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NOT SURE: NFF chief executive Tony Mahar says there's a risk the regenerative agriculture 'brand' could be used to ostracise some farmers.

NOT SURE: NFF chief executive Tony Mahar says there's a risk the regenerative agriculture 'brand' could be used to ostracise some farmers.

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Regenerative agriculture advocates say they don't want to see stringent certification of the kind that governs organic farming but the National Farmers Federation is concerned about the movement's potential to set farmer against farmer.

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Regenerative agriculture advocates say they don't want to see stringent certification of the kind that governs organic farming but the National Farmers Federation is concerned about the movement's potential to set farmer against farmer.

"Organics have really shot themselves in the foot because it's so prescriptive, you know, you're either in or you're out - there's nothing in between," Regenerative Agriculture Alliance founder Lorraine Gordon said.

"The whole way regenerative practitioners work is that it's based on collaborative models, it's based on a journey of ever improving practice.

"And if we pigeonhole what is in and what is out now, we miss opportunities to have a higher level understanding about ecology and about our how our landscapes work and operate."

Ms Gordon was speaking at a webinar hosted by AgriWebb on Thursday and her sentiment was supported by fellow panellists Charlie Arnott and Sam Trethewey.

While she said she understood the value of certification, it was "tricky".

"We definitely do not want to fall into the same trap that the organic guys have because it's polarising and regenerative agriculture is not about polarising people, it's about being inclusive," Ms Gordon said.

She also said regenerative agriculture was constantly evolving, with new practices coming about and old ones falling off.

Organic certification body, the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia Certified Organic (NASAA), supports the implementation of clear national standards.

"Certification is essential because, otherwise, there is no check and balance," general manager Tammy Partridge said.

"People could label their products going into the marketplace, as regenerative ag or produced in line with regenerative principles but, without a standard that lays out what those principles are, it's hard for people to identify what that means.

"And provides people with security that products have been grown and processed in a way that is compliant with organic standards and has been third-party verified."

But NFF chief executive Tony Mahar appeared faced with a dilemma: the value of clearly communicating to consumers what regenerative agriculture means without denigrating other farmers.

"If it going to be taken up at scale, I think most people would expect that there is an agreement on what those practices either are or look like or constitute," he said, speaking after the event.

"The discussion focused on a lot of the practices that may well be a part of 'normal farm business'."

Mr Mahar said that with such different ideas about regenerative agriculture, there was no way to effectively brand farming practices as 'regenerative'.

He also said that a definition of regenerative agriculture that was a large departure from conventional farming practices had the potential to "ostracise" farmers who had already adopted regenerative principles like rotational grazing.

"It has the potential to do a large amount of damage if the underpinning systems aren't agreed and science based and farmer driven," he said.

"We should focus on what we're all doing in common and really leverage and enhance that rather than to look at what might divide us."

While happy to see discussions on regenerative agriculture, the NFF was not ready to lead them.

"It's not on our priority list right at the moment," Mr Mahar said.

"What is on our priority list is policies and programs to grow the industry to $100 billion sustainable farming practices.

"Improved biodiversity, improved natural capital management, improved ecosystems, are part of that recipe that'll get us to $100b, among other things, among many other things."

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