A recent press release from the VFF is calling for a more balanced approach to the State's Native Vegetation Regulations. Andrew Bradey, President of the Environmental Farmers Network, believes that this "balanced approach" is their code for a return to unregulated tree clearing.
Andrew says "according to VFF spokesman, Gerry Leach, my farm would be $350,000 a year more profitable if I knocked down the 1,000 trees spread across my paddocks". Apparently their removal would unleash the full productive potential of my land and pave the way for a wealthy retirement. This is obviously not correct.
Mr Leach's early pleas for balance were followed by an amazingly imbalanced discussion. He gave only the cost side of the balance sheet. I agree with him that paddock trees have enormous environmental benefits for which farmers should be rewarded. However there is also a very significant list of agricultural production benefits too. These benefits include, shade for livestock, shelter from wind, depression of saline water tables and habitat for many beneficial creatures such as magpies, hawks, owls and bats.
Were the economic value of magpies, hawks, owls and bats included in the VFF's analysis? I would think not; yet every day, for no cost, they prey on insects, mice and small birds. A landscape without paddock trees would be far more prone to plagues of mice and locusts. Such plagues would be more frequent and more severe. Chemicals would become the only management option to cope. How many months ago was the VFF squealing for government assistance to combat mice; and before that locusts?
For my farm, paddock trees definitely have a net economic benefit. For others they may not, but most farmers are probably not sure. For those rare instances where paddock trees are a problem, the current regulations allow for their clearance, with a permit, and with appropriate off-set plantings. Weakening regulations would allow clearing to be carried out on a whim, and once those ancient paddock trees are gone, they are irreplaceable.
The VFF's latest crusade against trees must be opposed.