National Soils Advocate
Major General Michael Jeffery is the National Soils Advocate.
The National Soils Advocate is raising awareness about the importance of conserving and improving agricultural soil and landscape conditions to benefit Australia’s environment.
By engaging with governments, land managers, industry and researchers the National Soils Advocate is progressing the Prime Minister’s national objective to protect, restore and maintain the health of the agricultural landscape. This will enhance Australia’s agricultural productivity and sustainability leading to greater food security and viable farming communities.
Australia’s ancient, weathered soils are low in nutrients, poorly structured and depleted of organic carbon. Further, it is commonly accepted that European farming methods have negatively impacted soil health, and continue to do so. Drought, fire and changing weather patterns compound this.
The growing global population is increasing demand for food and fibre, placing ever more pressure on the environment and increasing the need for sustainability.
The National Soils Advocate will work to improve the sustainable management of our agricultural landscape by:
- elevating the importance of, and support for, improving soil health in policy thinking across sectors
- raising awareness about the importance of conserving and improving agricultural soil and landscape conditions
- increasing stakeholder understanding of how improved soil health will benefit the environment and the critical role soil plays in sustainable agricultural production, and in helping to meet global challenges, such as food security and climate change
- providing leadership and gaining the support of industry, governments and researchers to effect practice change to improve soil health
- supporting productive networks to facilitate sharing of knowledge and resources.
- providing input into the National Soils Strategy
- advocating for soil health on a global level, strengthening sustainable productivity and adapting to the effects of climate change.
Increased knowledge and expertise, and greater availability of resources, will encourage the uptake of best-practice management, enabling land managers to improve soil health and the condition of the agricultural landscape. This will also support the Government’s objective to grow Australian agriculture into a $100 billion industry by 2030, to the social and economic benefit of all Australians.
Land managers can support a healthier and more productive environment by integrating the sustainable management of our soil, water, vegetation and animals.
Recognising this interdependence and the importance of healthy soils, Major General Michael Jeffery’s land management philosophy is to:
- improve soil health through maintaining or increasing soil organic carbon (soil carbon) and encouraging soil biota
- hold water in the landscape by improving infiltration and the water holding capacity of soils
- encourage the right vegetation in the right places across the landscape and maintain good groundcover
- appropriately manage total grazing pressure from domestic, native and feral animals
- where possible, encourage catchment scale sustainable management of the soil, water, vegetation and animals, as the landscape benefits are amplified when managed cooperatively
- support the education of farmers and young Australians in sustainable management of the soil, water, vegetation and animals, including through case studies.
The Office of the National Soils Advocate
Secretariat and policy support is provided by the Office of the National Soils Advocate, in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. This includes assistance with drafting speeches and reports, arranging meetings and speaking engagements, and providing information on Australian government policies.
To contact the Office of the National Soils Advocate:
Phone: 0428 185 807
Major General Michael Jeffery was appointed as Australia’s first National Advocate for Soil Health by then Prime Minister, the Honourable Julia Gillard MP, on 23 October 2012. The appointment was extended by then Prime Minister, the Honourable Tony Abbott MP, and Deputy Prime Minister, the Honourable Barnaby Joyce MP, to 31 December 2017.
On 18 July 2019 the Prime Minister, the Honourable Scott Morrison, reappointed Major General Michael Jeffery to the position of National Soils Advocate, noting that the role is intended to be permanent.