By Boyd Champness

SYDNEY – THE Federal Government is preparing to slash funding to Landcare by up to 35% in the next budget.

Landcare – Australias most successful farmer-initiated conservation programme – has enjoyed phenomenal growth since its inception in Victoria in 1986 and now encompasses 4500 Landcare groups across the entire country.

According to an exclusive report in last weeks Weekly Times, the National Landcare Programmes funding will be cut by A$19 million, from A$55m (£21.5m or US$35m) in 1998-99 to A$36m (£14m or US$23m) next financial year.

Under the scheme, farmers can apply to receive funding to carry out conservation work on their properties, such as planting trees to prevent soil erosion or lower water tables, two specific problems that plague many Australian farms.

Victorian Farmers Federation policy director Clay Manners told the paper he was disappointed by the news. “Our experience is that there isnt a decline in the enthusiasm and interest of Landcare groups for the process, so why are they cutting funding?”