National Farmers' Federation

Australian Agricultural Sustainability Framework

The Federal Government Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE) has provided $4m in funding to the National Farmers’ Federation to develop and trial the Framework. Funding has been made available through the $34m Agriculture Stewardship Package.

The package recognises that farmers, as stewards of the environment and as land managers are providing benefits to the wider community. Many small and medium sized farmers would like to do more, and the Australian Government is taking the lead to support further stewardship activities by farmers. For more information on the DAWE package click here.

The overall objectives identified for the Australian Agricultural Sustainability Framework include: 

  • Integrate productivity, sustainability and biodiversity on Australian farms to provide lasting benefits to farmers and the community.
  • Ensure Australian farmers can showcase best practice sustainability/biodiversity management of natural resources – and ensure these actions are recognisable by supply chains, markets, investors, the community and other farmers.

With a wide range of industries, issues and differing priorities, a consultative approach is being adopted in all phases. If you or your organisation wish to be involved in project activites, please contact the project manager by email alovett@nff.org.au.

If you are a manager of an industry or commercial program which reports on sustainability or land management outcomes please click here to join a register of potential programs included in the framework. 

The project will consult with an agricultural industry Stakeholder Reference Group, which comprises of representatives from the following organisations:
  • Grain Growers Limited
  • Sheep Producers Australia
  • Cotton Australia
  • Cattle Council of Australia
  • Australian Farmers for Climate Action
  • Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia
  • AgForce Queensland Farmers Limited
  • Victorian Farmers Federation
  • NSW Farmers’ Association
  • NRM Regions
AASF Purpose
Development of the AASF commenced in December 2019 and will continue until 2022.
Through the work of the Australian Farm Institute and KPMG the following purpose and benefits of AASF have emerged. These are described in the Concept Diagram which can be accessed here
The purpose of the AASF is to communicate the overall sustainability goals and the status of all Australian agriculture to the market and to the community. 
The value and benefits the AASF could provide to Australian agriculture include:
  • acting as a translation layer to assist companies, financial institutions and investors to improve their understanding of Australian agricultural sustainability, measurement and reporting and to align this with their own sustainability measurement and reporting;
  • sharing information with Australian-based agricultural sustainability frameworks and schemes about the latest market and investor expectations in relation to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) aspects;
  • providing the Australian agricultural industry with a unified means to demonstrate and communicate its sustainability to customers, consumers, community and governments in order to maintain, secure and access markets; and
  • making it easier for Australian agricultural sectors and producers to participate in emerging private sector markets that demand agriculture products that are sustainably and responsibly produced.
Project Details
  • Phase 1 was completed in 2020 and provided a stocktake of existing Australian agriculture sector BMPs/Sustainability frameworks and a high-level international search for comparative schemes. This has allowed Industry and Government to assess areas of commonality across schemes and make recommendations about next steps. Consultation with farmers (and over 500  stakeholders) giving a clear redirection in scope, the NFF and DAWE have refocused from the original farm biodiversity certification to the AASF, whilst the Australian National University will deliver the a Biodiversity Program (for more information click here). 
The Australia Farm Institute undertook the Phase 1 report. The report found that best results were likely to come from an overarching framework that connected and verified current and emerging programs, providing farmers with choice. The report is available here, a policy summary is available here and a short video summary here
• Phase 2 will be completed in early 2022 and will involve the development of the Australian Agricultural Sustainability Framework. Activities will include 6 elements of integrated work:
    • delivering a framework for agriculture sustainability, including considering any legal, privacy or other (e.g. tax) implications in delivering the frameworks for industry / farmers to adopt
    • working with agriculture-related organisations, such as rural research and development corporations, industry and private / not-for-profit companies, to incorporate and verify existing frameworks and schemes into and under a harmonised framework
    • determining data and information needs to underpin the framework’s success, including considering and addressing any gaps where applicable
    • considering market opportunities, and how the framework could inform market-based decisions (e.g. the consumer at the supermarket shelf, trade opportunities, financing, etc) to ensure the framework can deliver positive outcomes for farmers (e.g. premiums, increased market access, favourable interest rates, etc)
    • developing and delivering on a communications plan to engage with farmers, the broader industry and other relevant stakeholders, including articulating a robust value proposition to encourage participation. 
• Phase 3 will be completed by late 2022 and may include a small trial of the framework, in collaboration with other activities in the DAWE Stewardship Package.

Webinar Recording:

The webinar below was recorded on 4 May 2020 as part of the Australian Farm Institute project investigating critical success factors for an Australian Farm Biodiversity Scheme. The presentations feature AFI Executive Director Richard Heath and NFF General Manager, Natural Resource Management Warwick Ragg. A final 1-hour webinar for this project will be held on Tuesday May 19th (register via link above).