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A project dedicated to assisting the progression of the grazing industry into the future is one that deserves close attention and support from all involved in the industry. One of 10 projects under the Queensland Government’s Drought and Climate Adaptation Program (DCAP), GrazingFutures aims to help producers in a variety of ways.

The project is led by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) and run in collaboration with many regional organisations such as natural resource management groups. Others include AgForce, rural financial counsellors, the Queensland Rural and Industry Authority, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and private consultants. GrazingFutures has big plans to improve the drought resilience of Western Queensland to help ensure the strength of the grazing industry into the future. Helping graziers manage their land and businesses in the short term through skills and knowledge development is one aim, while improving long-term sustainability and the ongoing strength of grazing businesses and communities is another.By working together, project partners and participants gain access to a wide range of complimentary resources and associated skills and knowledge.

In recent years, the Western Queensland economy, and in particular its agricultural businesses, have been hit hard by prolonged drought and irregular climatic conditions. The drought has brought with it a range of problems for the businesses of Western Queensland and has had an estimated economic impact of $300-$500 million per annum. With almost half of the businesses in rural Queensland involved in agriculture it has placed huge stress on many rural communities. The prolonged dry periods have drastically reduced the productivity of the land on which so many grazing businesses rely. Without the rain, pasture availability and stock numbers have dwindled, and many producers have struggled to remain economically viable. Harsh weather conditions have created an even harsher economic climate which is expected to last long after the drought breaks.

These flow-on effects of the drought have been felt strongly throughout rural communities with many facing substantial population declines. However the drought has brought more than just economic impacts. The prolonged dry periods have also increased the likelihood of long-term land degradation with declines in species diversity. Without the regular wet season, native grass species have been unable to re-establish and the loss in ground cover has had many negative consequences for regional ecosystems and the species of animals dependent on them. The reduced ground cover has increased the risk of erosion and soil loss which can be extremely detrimental for the long-term sustainability of the natural environments on which grazing businesses rely. The long-term sustainability of the land is crucial for the future of the extensive grazing industry in Queensland.

If the health of the land continues to decline it will become less resilient to future droughts and less productive, but the sustainable management of land is also becoming an increasingly important social issue. More and more, consumers of agricultural produce are looking for sustainably sourced products that consider the well-being of the environment in their production. It is becoming increasingly important for primary producers to consider the values of consumers to keep up in a changing market. Finding ways to become more drought resilient in a sustainable way will be a key element of this.
Increasing the drought resilience of the extensive grazing areas of Queensland in a sustainable landscape is essential for the long-term economic viability of the whole region.
Without efforts to improve sustainable grazing management practices the industry risks further decline over the long term. The GrazingFutures team, based throughout western and northern Queensland, pro- vides a number of educational resources on a range of key management issues that land- holders can access. These products aim to sup- port grazing businesses as much as possible to implement best management practices to help ensure the ongoing success and strength of the grazing industry.

The collaboration with other regional organisations facilitates an extremely beneficial sharing of knowledge and skills. Producers therefore have access to the best assistance possible from the knowledge of a variety of highly-skilled individuals and organisations. The implementation of best management practices in key areas such as maintaining and improving grazing land management, and native vegetation, will be a crucial consideration for all producers in the future as will the introduction of key new markets such as carbon farming. These topics already have a strong influence on the public perception of the extensive grazing industry and will continue to be influential in determining demand for agricultural produce.

Educating producers to manage for a variable climate, increasing resilience sustainability, and the rehabilitation of degraded areas are also a high priority for GrazingFutures as is the introduction of new and emerging technology opportunities. While this is largely to help producers balance productivity and sustainability, it also promotes positive social perceptions of the industry. With the support it provides to producers through the project and its partners, GrazingFutures has a key role to play in the ongoing strength and resilience of this industry and our regional communities. Project events are regularly held throughout the west and an extensive calendar of events covering the year lets you plan the best opportunities to access the project services. We would love to hear your ideas for future events.