Following our feature in Supplier Magazine on farm forestry, the timber industry welcomes research funding into forestry on farms. Federal Member for Gippsland calls it a “tree-mendous” project.

The ABC (Rural) reports that timber industry representatives say a new plan for research into agroforestry will not be a repeat of failed managed investment schemes. The most notable of these schemes were the Great Southern group and Timbercorp that led to two separate Australian parliamentary committee enquiries. Great Southern’s after tax profit peaked at A$132 million in 2006 but by 2008 deteriorated to an A$63 million loss.

FWPA managing director Ric Sinclair said the industry had learnt a lot from the mistakes made by the agribusiness companies behind failed managed investment schemes and that: “This research is about giving decision support to farmers about how and where to put trees on their property that can maximise value”. Ross Hampton from the Australian Forest Products Association said growing trees on farms would lead to a significant increase in Australian timber resources: “The resource is obviously fundamental for growth”.

In May, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced $520,000 in funding for a research and development project to look into growing trees for harvest on farmland. The Government grant will be matched by $890,000 in cash and in-kind donations by FWPA and its partners. Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) will co-ordinate the research to investigate tree varieties, soil types and planning needed to introduce timber plantations on farms. Minister Joyce said the research would seek to allow farmers to diversify into planting trees for harvest and give farmers another source of on-farm revenue.

Minister Joyce said: “This funding works very well inside our program of a better agricultural outcome, a better timber outcome, for our nation”. Industry representatives have also sought to clarify that the project would not be a repeat of failed forestry managed investment schemes, which devastated thousands of farmer investors. FWPA managing director Ric Sinclair said funding for the research project would benefit both timber processors and farmers.

“We’ve had two large resource baskets in Australia — the plantations and the native forest area. What’s been missing in Australia really has been a large input from our farming community.”

Forest and Wood Products Australia will partner with several groups including Dairy Australia, Private Forests Tasmania, University of Tasmania, Greening Australia, CSIRO and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation to carry out the project.