ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Sustainable Farming in Australia: Market Instruments for Improved Land Management, (2010-2013)

ILWS Strategic Research Area

Environmental Justice and Governance for Social Change


ARC Discovery ($230,000)

Investigators/ Researchers 

A/Prof Vaughan Higgins (ILWS), Professor Chris Cocklin (James Cook University), Dr Clive Potter (Imperial College London) & Dr Jacqui Dibden (Monash University)


Beef cattle in North QueenslandThis project investigated how Australian farming industries are responding to demands for more sustainable production practices. Through the analysis of Australian and international policy documents, as well as detailed case studies of two industries – dairy and beef – the research examined the implementation of market-based and voluntary strategies, which provide incentives to farmers in managing the competing demands of economic viability and sustainable production. These incentives include: industry codes of practice, environmental management systems, environmental certification, and payments to farmers for the provision of ecosystem services.

Findings from this project were:

  • The dairy industry has taken a coordinated approach to sustainable land management through a voluntary environmental self-assessment tool (DairySAT) whereas the use of incentive schemes in the beef industry has tended to focus on regionally-based auction schemes or competitive grants
  • Incentives schemes help landholders to prioritise planned environmental work
  • Extension support from government agencies, processors and/or NRM agencies is crucial to the success of incentives schemes
  • Landholder participation in incentive schemes were dependent on the scheme design, links with other government programs and regulations, landholders' existing practices and objectives, and, in the case of the dairy industry, support from processors.


Higgins, V., Dibden, J. & Cocklin, C. (2012) Market Instruments and the Neoliberalisation of Land Management in Rural Australia, Geoforum, 43: 377-386.

Higgins, V., Dibden, J. & Cocklin, C. (2010) Adapting Standards: The Case of Environmental Management Systems in Australia, in V. Higgins and W. Larner (eds), Calculating the Social: Standards and the Reconfiguration of Governing, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan: 167-184.

Higgins, V. Payments for Environmental Services in the N. E. Queensland Beef Industry: Summary of Research Results

Higgins, V., Dibden, J., & Cocklin, C. (2015) Private agri-food governance and greenhouse gas abatement: Constructing a carbon economy, Geoforum 66, 75-84


It is expected that the findings from this project will provide policy makers with valuable information on implementation and adoption of market-based incentives.

A/Prof Vaughan Higgins,
CSU – Albury

November 2015