Labor makes more cuts to national soil strategy

29 August 2023

The Federal Labor Government has scrapped the National Soils Advocate and cut funding to programs that previously had bipartisan support.

Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said the decision was disappointing and showed Labor was turning its back on agriculture, with National Soils Advocate, the Hon Penelope Wensley AC, having now finished her term. David would like to thank Penelope Wensley for her contribution to soils and agriculture,” Mr Littleproud said. “Once again, Labor is cutting corners and costs when it comes to soils.

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There is no detail on who or what will replace the National Soils Advocate, even though the Government has had nearly 18 months to plan and this is a crucial position.” The former Coalition Government set up the National Soil Strategy in May 2021 and committed $196.9 million.“We invested in soils because we know soils are imperative for the environment, the economy, and our food security and costs.

The strategy was to prioritise soil health, empower soil innovation and stewards, and strengthen soil knowledge and capability. “Labor’s announcement in the May Budget of $56 million to implement the National Soil Action Plan with other states and territories included $36 million from the Natural Heritage Trust, which already focuses on soils.“Labor also redirected $11.7 million from the National Soils Strategy to ‘other priorities’. They continue to make cuts instead of investing in this much-needed strategy.

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It comes after Labor previously secretly cut the innovative $54 million Soil Monitoring Incentives Program (SMIP), using the excuse of flooding. Established under the former Coalition Government, the SMIP provided landholders with up to $275 per soil sampling site – capped at $10,000 per business – in exchange for sharing the information with a national soil database, to help inform the development of future policy.