New report indicates policy certainty needed to protect farm viability around Melbourne

Ongoing uncertainty around the long term future of Melbourne’s surrounding agricultural land limits investment in Melbourne’s foodbowl and fuels speculative investment in farmland, driving up land prices and undermining farm viability, a new report has found.

Researchers at the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences and the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute at the University of Melbourne released Food for thought: Challenges and opportunities for farming in Melbourne’s foodbowl on Wednesday 18 July.

The report explores the policy challenges facing Melbourne’s foodbowl and identifies opportunities to strengthen food production on Melbourne’s fringe. It focuses on three key issues: protecting farmland, increasing water access and strengthening the viability of farming.

The report will inform a series of co-design workshops to be held with stakeholders between July 2018 and February 2019, in which stakeholders will work in cross-sector teams to identify strategies to strengthen Melbourne’s foodbowl. The outputs of these workshops will be documented in a final project report to be released in March 2019.

The report identifies the policy challenges that need to be addressed to strengthen Melbourne’s foodbowl and the opportunities that could be leveraged, focusing on three key policy issues: protecting farmland, strengthening the viability of farming and increasing water access.

The main findings of this research include:

  • The single most important step for strengthening Melbourne’s foodbowl is to provide certainty about the long term future of Melbourne’s green wedges and peri-urban areas, as a springboard for investment and innovation
  • Ongoing uncertainty limits investment by farmers in Melbourne’s foodbowl and fuels speculative investment in farmland, driving up land prices and undermining farm viability
  • Strong and consistent policy signals are required to create certainty for Melbourne’s foodbowl
  • There is a strong argument for greater state government investment in recycled water infrastructure for agriculture in Melbourne’s foodbowl to increase the resilience of the city’s food supply to climate risks
  • New opportunities are emerging to strengthen farm viability in Melbourne’s foodbowl, driven by a growing consumer interest in sourcing locally grown foods, new opportunities for agri-tourism and direct sales and increasing demand for ethical, sustainably-produced foods from smaller scale producers
  • It is important to build public support and awareness of the benefits of Melbourne’s foodbowl and green wedges to protect the region in the long term.

You can download the full report here.

The Foodprint Melbourne project is led by an inter-faculty team at the University of Melbourne, with team members based in the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences and the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute. The project is funded by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and involves local governments as key partners.

The previous phase of the Foodprint Melbourne project generated an evidence base about the significance of Melbourne’s foodbowl to the city’s food supply in the context of a rapidly growing population and pressures on food supply from climate change and declining supplies of the natural resources (such as land, water and fossil fuels) that underpin food production.