NEWS the state government is looking at how to shift the Soil Conservation Service from cost recovery to a profit centre is yet another example of where farmers will bear yet more environmental cost.
Since 1990, the service (which emerged as the Soil Conservation Act in 1938) has been operated commercially, but in a way which has meant farmers got access to remediation services and advice without cost to the public and without costing the farmer more than was needed to get the job done properly.
Reduced erosion and improved water quality benefit all of society, yet, as with issues such as native vegetation, the cost is borne by farmers and likely to worsen.
The government wants to increase the dollars it squeezes from farmers, effectively taxing them for doing the right thing.
Soil remediation works aren't cheap as it is and are often put off because they don't necessarily have a big short term benefit to the profitability of an operation.
However, the cost of not treating soil degradation, be it compacted soils, stream bank, gully or sheet erosion, is cumulative.
The advantage of the Soil Conservation Service is - despite perhaps already costing more than using your regular earthmover - the objective, independent advice that comes with it.
The service has staff with experience in stabilising the landscape, including surveying and planning of projects so the project itself doesn't cause damage and waste money.
Government is looking for income in the wrong areas if it thinks making a service such as this a profit generator.
The work of this service benefits more than just farmers, yet by increasing its price, it will only make it less attractive for landholders to use.
Perhaps that's the plan - set it up to fail and then we can close it down.
Yet, to fly across the landscape and see the many contour banks, waterways and dams - these being the most obviously visible aspects of the service's works - demonstrates how widespread the uptake has been through the years and how important these services are to the agricultural industry.
Surely there is no need for the Soil Conservation Service to do more than recover its costs, because all it will end up doing is costing farmers more either up front for services, or through lost production.