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APEN 2001 International Conference

Toowoomba, 4th-5th October 2001

Report No:


Title of Topic:

The Role of Farm Forestry in Addressing Natural Resource Management and Regional Community / Economy Issues in Australia – Opportunities and Strategies

Name of Leader:

Laurie Capill (Co-ordinator, Southern Queensland Farm Forestry Development Assoc. Inc.)

Names of Participants:

Ashley Sewell, Sue Heisswolf, Peter Stevens, Jessica Kenway, Dave Meikle, Graham Wilson, Eric Anderson, Margaret Cruickshank, Tony Dunn, Andy Grodecki

Main points of discussion


A widespread perception that ‘forestry’ is mainly about cutting down trees for manufacture of wood products undermines recognition of the opportunities for forestry to make major contributions to a range of important public policy agendas, including NRM and regional communities/economies.

Government recognition and support for integrated farm forestry systems appears to be subordinated to support for development of the industrial forestry and downstream wood – processing sectors. Qld government agencies have in recent years shifted resources away from farm forestry assistance towards:

  • Vegetation management; and
  • Industrial forestry models

This has resulted in a lack of needed extension support for farm forestry practitioners, and in particular a failure to provide desirable incentives for (potential) farm foresters to initiate projects that would deliver significant public sector benefits.

We note that current taxation provisions (deductibility of non-commercial losses, etc) provide incentives for industrial-scale forestry, but small-scale forestry is generally excluded. One questions whether withdrawal of agency support for farm forestry might not be at least partly motivated by a perception that forestry, regardless of scale, is motivated by self-interests such as tax minimisation.

In many areas around Australia, where industrial plantations have recently established, local communities have been denied any effective role in determining the shape or use of their local landscapes. This has generated significant regional socio-economic controversies.

Lack of demonstrated market opportunities and market intelligence is a major issue for and impediment to the development of the farm forestry sector.

Another issue is the lack of available information, or the means of access to information, relevant to farm forestry operations.


  • An alternative perception of forestry needs to be widely promoted – that forestry is essentially ‘a class of land use systems that involve trees, which may be managed for a broad range of objectives, including natural resource management, agricultural enhancement, provision of environmental services, and rural economic restructuring, as well as production of wood products.
  • It was noted that QDPI’s Agency for Food and Fibre Science is currently exploring opportunities for sustainable production systems, including ‘mosaic farming’, as a response to salinity threats. Exploration of a range of possible agro-forestry systems tailored to specific bioregions would be possible in this context.
  • Improved co-ordination of effort between the various business groups within QDPI and between QDPI and other Qld Govt agencies deserves encouragement.
  • Consideration should be given to how available investment resources (eg superannuation funds) and public-funded programs (eg NAPSWQ) might be better directed to the farm forestry sector and other sustainable land use systems.
  • Extension agents could usefully consider opportunities for changing the motivations and priorities of those with resources (investors, landholders, agencies) as to how they choose to deploy their resources.

The financial viability of farm forestry systems is based on 3 streams:

  • Returns from forest products (long-term, with associated cash-flow problems)
  • Returns from enhanced production of associated agricultural enterprises (eg grazing or horticulture)
  • Payments for provision of public good outcomes, including environmental services

Consideration should be given to ensuring that income streams from each of these components are optimised, in order for farm forestry systems to be most financially attractive.

Major outcomes (what have you achieved from this discussion; how can this make a difference; what else do you need to do?)

We had insufficient time to thoroughly explore the above and other strategies, which might address the range of issues.

I propose that the group members be invited to participate in an email-based discussion (using Yahoo Groups facilities) to round out our consideration of the above. I will make the necessary arrangements for this to occur within the next fortnight.

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