Farming on the Liverpool Plains

SUSAN and Peter Jones have been farming on the Liverpool Plains near Quirindi, for nine years. "We run a straight farming operation principally growing sorghum, wheat, barley and sunflowers. We farm 924 hectares of the black soil plains. Work has begun on a project, in agreement with State Forests, to plant 65 hectares of native trees on some of our lighter country," sain Mr Jones.

"Like a lot of small operators, much of my time is spent 'Putting out fires'; that is, dealing with the day-to-day issues of being a farmer. I do all the 'right' things: I tramline all my country, opportunity crop, farm in strips and i have no-tilled on this property for the last nine years. While I feel that my crop yields are increasing, soil erosion is still occuring, fertiliser and chemical use has increased at a much higher rate, and salinity remains a threat.

"On small operations like this farm, these bigger picture problems tend to be over-shadowed by more immediate problems. Adoption of an EMS doesn't mean that I have solved all these problems, nor does it mean that I am at best practice in all my farming system. It does mean that I have identified the issues that I face, and have adopted a systematic plan to address them.

"The plans I make have a timeframe, and each year an auditor checks my progress. To maintain certification, the auditor must be satisfied that you have achieved your goals. He also checks to see that you are complying with relevant legislation such as chemical handling and use, record keeping and fuel and oil storage.

"The result for me has meant tighter management, better planning and a reduced impact on my environment.

"I think most farmers would acknowledge that some of our practices are unsustainable in the long term. However the changes we need to make will never occur as fast as some in the Green movement would like. People outside thes industry often take a simplistic view of why we do what we do, something failing to consider the difficulties we face (most farmers don't like chemicals either). The changes we need to make must be done gradually, and the effects of those changes on the fnvironment and the financial security of the farm need to be monitored."