CANEGROWERS is well known for bringing pressure to bear when it counts - lobbying industry and government on behalf of members, to secure sustainable, profitable and productive agriculture in Australia. Our policies include:
Alternative products policy
Diversification of income is a vital strategy for the sustainability of the industry by reducing our reliance on the world sugar market and increasing industry income. Sugarcane is a crop with one of the highest rates of conversion of sunlight into biomass and will play a major role as a feedstock in any industry based on fermentation of biomass.
Diversification of industry income into ethanol and other fermentation products should provide the Australian community with a number of benefits including:
- Economically stable, vibrant, diversified regional communities
- Improvement in air quality through use of ethanol in petrol
- Substitution of a stable source of locally produced fuel for imported products
- Use of renewable feedstocks for fuel, reducing dependence on limited fossil fuels and reducing contributions to the greenhouse effect.
Diversion of significant areas from sugar cane production across a region could threaten mill viability. However, diversification of crops on spare land, marginal land and fallow does not.
In order to increase industry income and reduce risk a significant proportion of the income stream from sugar cane should come from ethanol and fermentation products and other crops grown on spare, marginal and fallow land.
- Support for activities that improve consumers’ acceptance of ethanol as a safe, viable component of the fuel supply.
- Support for programs to encourage diversification of on farm production on spare land, marginal and fallow
- Support for research and technology development to improve the efficiency of production of sugarcane biomass and the conversion of this biomass to ethanol and other fermentation products
- Support for government action to recognise the community benefits of a biofuels industry through appropriate taxation and incentive arrangements that encourage investment in fuel ethanol production within a current time frame, which should include the adoption of a mandate for inclusion of biofuels in the fuel supply
- Support for actions that promote grower ownership of ethanol and fermentation industries
- Support for proper recognition of the value of sugarcane when used as a feedstock for ethanol and other fermentation industries.
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Farming issues policy
Crop protection is a critical facet in the optimization of sugar cane production. Production losses to the industry can be high because of the impact of disease, weeds and animal pests.
To maintain productivity through crop protection, a number of activities are undertaken by the industry. These include risk surveillance of disease by SRA and other agencies, the introduction of improved generic varieties to the industry, the chemical and biological treatment of disease by integrated pest management (IPM) techniques, feral animal control, training in chemical use and correct disposal of used chemical containers.
There is need to continually monitor and implement actions in these areas, so that sugar cane productivity is maintained or improved.
To ensure that the necessary tools for ongoing crop protection are available and readily accessible by farmers and are used in a socially acceptable manner.
- That CANEGROWERS continue to promote crop protection activities with funding agencies so that providers can continue to undertake research and development in this area.
- That risk surveillance programs are funded so that the entry of exotic sugar cane diseases into Australia is minimised.
- That SRA and other agencies are encouraged to continue to develop new disease resistant varieties and systems for crop protection.
- That chemicals needed for ongoing disease and weed control are identified and registered with the APVMA. These chemicals are to be used according to label instructions and used in accordance with conditions to minimise spray drift.
- That integrated pest management (IPM) strategies continue to be disseminated and revised through research and development.
- That CANEGROWERS continues to support the activities of Plant Health Australia (PHA).
- That feral animal control programs particularly for pigs and rats are funded and cost effective programs are implemented.
- That Chemcert continues to be the course of preference for growers for training in the use of chemicals used in the sugarcane industry.
- That the disposal service for used chemical materials e.g. drum muster and any other suitable government program is supported by the industry.
Farm management policy
Linking the demands of agricultural productivity and profitability with responsible environmental management is a major challenge for cane growers.
The Great Barrier Reef Water Quality Plan and regional Natural Resource Management Plans have focussed attention on farming practices and their potential impacts on aquatic environments. Open communication by the industry with stakeholders is becoming more important as the industry attempts to build public confidence in how farms are managed. As new issues emerge, the ability of the industry to ensure public confidence will become critical to maintaining a positive political environment that endorses cane farming.
The ability of the industry to self-manage is continually being eroded by the development of legislation and restrictions on how farming is conducted. Maintaining access to appropriate chemicals and fertilisers in the face of ongoing demands for public accountability is an important issue.
A Farm Management System (FMS) is a voluntary approach that can be used by growers to identify and manage risks, including environmental risks, that may occur as a result of their farming operation. It is a way for growers to bring together and record what they currently do on farm and what a grower needs to put in place for good farm management. FMS aims to benefit growers by focusing attention on implementing good farm management practices and then reviewing progress made against set targets e.g. regional natural resource management targets. FMS can help draw diverse on-farm management issues together under a common flexible ‘systems’ approach.
A coordinated industry approach to farm management will provide the necessary support, resources, research and tools to assist an individual growing enterprise to self-manage its operation. It will assist in displaying to the general public the support tools, support services and programs which growers have adopted to continue to farm in a sustainable manner.
Farm Management Outcome
The outcome of an industry-led farm management program will be the responsible and sustainable use of soil, water and other physical resources, consistent with economic efficiency and community aspirations, providing opportunities for the industry to develop program(s) which meet these outcomes.
An industry-led FMS program will build on existing industry programs, be simple to implement, minimise the cost to individual enterprises, improve efficiencies of record keeping, and contain a self-assessment component. Adoption by growers should be on a voluntary basis. An industry-led FMS program will support acceptable standards promoting good farm practice agreed to by the industry groups.
The FMS Program will accommodate regional differences and regional risks. CANEGROWERS supports the development of a Sugar Industry Farm Management Systems Strategy and seeks the involvement and support of key sugar industry groups in the development of this strategy.
The QFF FMS Framework provides a guide to inform the development of farm management systems in the sugarcane industry to improve profitability, productivity and sustainability of sugarcane growers.
To complement the industry-led FMS program, CANEGROWERS may seek incentives from the government for the implementation of environmentally sustainable farming systems.
Provision of extension services to cane growers to adopt good farm management practices which are consistent with sustainable agriculture and conservation of coastal ecosystems, continues to be of high importance. Industry agreement of these good farm management practices is essential.
Revision of the Code of Practice for Sustainable Cane Growing in Queensland is part of the process of achieving stakeholder endorsement that farming practices meet the general environmental duty of care.
The COMPASS self-assessment workbook is a valuable tool with which growers can assess the sustainability of their farming practices, while recognising that the workbook will require revision as new industry good farm management practices are developed. As such, CANEGROWERS promotes COMPASS as a useful first step and key component for a grower’s farm management system. COMPASS is one method to assist growers with self-assessment in their farm management system.
The adoption of agreed good farm management practices (given due regard to regional differences) by the majority of growers through the delivery of industry endorsed, competency-based training programs, is seen as a key component. Development and implementation of programs, which allow reporting industry performance, either as in a Public Environment Report or as agreed NRM Management Targets will assist communication with stakeholders.
Certification options with potential incentives for the sugar industry will continue to be explored but are not an essential requirement for a sugarcane grower’s farm management system.
Access to Chemical and Fertilisers
Agricultural chemicals and fertilisers are essential components of the sustainable cane farming system. Their continued availability and registration is required.
Diuron is a broad-spectrum herbicide and controls most of the common weeds in sugarcane. Two commonly used products that contain diuron are Velpar K4 and Comanche and there are label recommendations to add diuron to 2,4-D, sodium salt, paraquat, Daconate, Actril, Gesapax, Combi and other products. Adverse findings from the NRA review could result in the loss of an important tool in crop production. In 2003 a Submission on Diuron Use was developed by SRA (formerly BSES) and CANEGROWERS on behalf of the canegrowing industry.
Government schemes & taxation policy
The cane growing industry has, in recent years, been obliged to approach government at both state and federal level for assistance due to temporary, adverse circumstances such as drought, flood and low price. The current federal government Sugar Industry Reform Package and state government assistance measures are the outcome of this approach. There is a need to monitor these programs and work with government to ensure that the result of the assistance is a self-reliant, dynamic, sustainable industry.
Other government schemes impact on cane growers, which also require management. These include the Exceptional Circumstances Scheme, the Energy Grants (Credit) Scheme and taxation arrangements.
- To ensure cane growers obtain fair access to appropriate assistance
- To maximise the quality and effectiveness of government funded assistance to cane growers
- To ensure that specific taxation measures that impinge on cane growers and rural producers are appropriate and fair
Sugar Industry Reform Program
- That CANEGROWERS be involved in ongoing negotiations with both State and Federal Governments to assist the sugar cane industry to achieve prosperity.
- That cane growers wishing to leave the industry should be assisted in such a way that they are able to exit with dignity.
- CANEGROWERS should actively support an exceptional circumstance system based on independent growers, groups of growers or districts, able to trigger assistance for an exceptional circumstance.
- That CANEGROWERS seek the introduction of an investment allowance to encourage the development of farm improvements to facilitate ongoing viability.
- That the expense for work carried out on soil conservation and drought mitigation to be eligible for 100% tax deductibility in the year of expenditure.
- That CANEGROWERS supports income equalisation schemes that allow growers to manage in times of reduced income.
- That CANEGROWERS supports the retention of the diesel fuel rebate to primary producers at the full rate of the diesel fuel excise.
- That CANEGROWERS supports the retention of the import parity pricing system for fuel.
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Sugar marketing & trade policy
The Queensland sugar industry has benefited through its single desk approach to marketing, which provides the ability to manage supply, obtain premia and provide transparency in pricing. It has been predicated that statutory marketing arrangements will be removed when the Sugar Industry Act is reviewed in 2006. There is therefore a need to ensure that new arrangements maximise income for the industry, retain benefits of centralised marketing and allow participants flexibility in production and delivery. The world market for sugar is corrupted by domestic support policies in overseas countries and trade barriers. The world food industry is becoming more demanding, with requirements for traceability and guarantees of environmentally sustainable practices in production.
To ensure that Queensland sugar producers maximise returns by efficient marketing and selling of sugar and a fair world market place.
Role of statutory marketing authorities
- Support marketing arrangements based on efficiency and competitiveness that maximise the market power of producers. Recognise some marketing arrangements must be supported by industry regulation, either self-regulation or statutory. Continue to support moves to remove protection and subsidies in major sugar producing and consuming countries. This includes support for the Global Sugar Alliance, for the inclusion in sugar liberalisation in multilateral trade negotiations and appropriate inclusion of sugar in bilateral arrangements.
Sugar brands and quality
- Queensland Sugar Limited should maximise industry income through the provision of particular brands of sugar appropriate to individual markets provided that the remuneration from these markets is such that the supply of particular types of sugar is commercially viable. Differentiation maybe through any of combination of the following:
- Quality characteristics
- Production processes (e.g.; environmental certification, organic, GMO status)
- Mills, collectively or individually, should be neither advantaged nor disadvantaged financially as a result of Queensland Sugar Limited requiring them to produce any particular brand of sugar.
- That comprehensive industry information on raw sugar quality performance be made available to all mill areas and CANEGROWERS
- That QSL should have the ability that, when a new market is identified for a particular product, a separate pool may be established for participants in that particular product.
Operation of QSL
- That the pricing and risk management strategy of QSL be set in consultation with industry participants.
- That QSL should operate the advances program so as to disperse funds as they are received and not become involved in significant borrowings or large cash holdings.
- That ownership of Sugar Terminals Limited be retained in the hands of active grower and active miller shareholders.
- That the costs of operating terminals continue to be pooled so long as sales continue to be made on an industry basis.
Transport issues policy
Both state and federal government are continually reviewing legislation regulations relating to transport. Often proposals come forward that are impractical to implement, which may not necessarily improve workplace health and safety but which may impact negatively on the viability of enterprises. Examples include:
- Fatigue management legislation
- Withdrawal of UD licences
- The development for performance guidelines for haulout equipment
At the same time, improvements in transport infrastructure are necessary to meet the change in demands for cane transport, particularly due to restructure of the industry
To represent the interests of cane growers in matters coming under the jurisdiction of the State & Federal Departments of Transport and Main Roads and the Queensland Police Service.
- That CANEGROWERS continue to press for change in the transport area to those operating conditions which impact negatively on the orderly operations of cane production and harvesting and which do not improve workplace safety
- That CANEGROWERS supports the provision of public use infrastructure in cane growing areas by the appropriate level of government.
- That CANEGROWERS continues to oppose the transfer of infrastructure costs for the transport of cane to the industry.
- That CANEGROWERS continues to cooperate with appropriate instrumentalities with a view to seeking solutions to problems involved with the movement on public roads of equipment for use in cane growing and harvesting.
- That CANEGROWERS supports the retention of a special driver licence for agricultural vehicles.
Value chain relationships policy
With the passage of the amendments to the Sugar Industry Act in April 2004, value chain relationships within the sugar industry have entered a new era. Although local variations on conditions within agreements have been possible for many years, the new environment, virtually without any legislative pre-conditions, puts the emphasis in value chain relationships clearly at an individual grower and bargaining agent level. At a state level, CANEGROWERS policy should therefore be to support growers negotiating collectively and to encourage improvements in value chain relationships.
- To provide support to district CANEGROWERS companies in their role as bargaining agents for growers and encourage improvements in value chain relationships.
- To maximise grower viability and profitability through value chain optimisation in areas such as season length, transport arrangements etc.
- To act as the central repository of industry data to be used for the benefit of value chain participants.
- That CANEGROWERS Brisbane provide support to CANEGROWERS companies acting in their role as bargaining agents.
- That this organisation and the Australian Sugar Milling Council establish a peak industry body. The role of this body would be:
- The development of industry-wide policy;
- Provision advice to state and federal governments
- That it be the policy of CANEGROWERS that CANEGROWERS district companies should act on behalf of all members of CANEGROWERS
- That security of cane payment be provided to CANEGROWERS members
- That CANEGROWERS collect industry data on behalf of industry to be used for the benefit of industry value chain participants.
- Irrigation is critical to the sugarcane industry and there are around 3500 irrigated canegrowers throughout Queensland. This represents around 55 percent of total growers and 60 percent of production.
- CANEGROWERS use around 1 200 000ML of water per year which is around 350ML per grower.
- The main irrigation areas are the Atherton Tablelands, Burdekin, Proserpine, Mackay, Bundaberg, Isis and Maryborough and the vast majority of growers irrigate in the areas. Without irrigation, most of these growers would not be able to grow cane.
- In recent years, there have been considerable changes to irrigation policies in Queensland that are significantly impacting on canegrowers including irrigation water pricing. Government has been increasing water prices significantly and could increase them even further putting at jeopardy the viability of many growers
Ensure growers maintain economic, environmental and socially sustainable access to resources within the context of changing government legislation..
- Irrigation water charges in irrigation areas be based on a zero rate of return on capital for existing irrigation schemes.
- Efficient scheme operating costs be paid by the direct user including operational, maintenance and replacement costs.
- Growers meet the efficient resource management costs of Sunwater and that all resource management costs in Resource Operations Plans are justifiable (i.e. directly related to running an irrigation scheme in a catchment), necessary and transparent.
- Water prices are negotiated at the scheme level by Customer Councils and Sunwater with the Queensland Competition Authority to set prices where agreement cannot be reached.
- Contributions on new assets should be negotiated with each scheme when the scheme is being developed. Also, if water and infrastructure costs are purchased up front (eg water entitlements), no rate of return should be subsequently charged.
- Capacity to pay be determined at the scheme level based on predominant crops and the performance of typical growers.
- Those parties who are direct users and direct beneficiaries of irrigation water and dams should contribute towards the cash cost of operation and thus help defray the costs of irrigators.
- Variation of water charges apply as follows:
- different industry sectors be charged at different rates;
- different rural industries be charged at the same rate;
- that the practice of different pricing levels between river and channel irrigators within a scheme is recognised. However, differences in water prices should not occur within existing schemes that were established on the principle that prices be averaged across the scheme, unless determined otherwise by irrigators within that scheme.
- Growers not be charged for externalities and scarcity of water.
- Oppose any contribution to the resource management costs of government in managing Queensland water resources.
Local Management of Irrigation Schemes
- Local management of state owned irrigation schemes should be supported.
- Local management arrangements include the option for control and management of all headworks including storages so that there is the prospect of a large degree of self determination to suit local irrigators.
- Granting of a water licence and associated works licence be in perpetuity.
- Any loss of water entitlement as a result of a Water Allocation Management Plan should be fully compensated.
- Transfer of water entitlement be supported within sectors provided that the irrigation system is capable of supporting such transfer.
- Where Sunwater proves to the relevant customer council that a reduction in losses has occurred in a scheme, this reduction in losses be converted to a tradeable water allocation.
- Sunwater maintain responsibility for policing overuse of water in Sunwater schemes.
Dams and Land and Water Management Plans
- Dam owners should not be required to undertake a hazard-assessment, by a professional engineer to determine the impact of dam failure on downstream people, more than every 10 years.
- Land and water management plans be required by regulation only in circumstances of the acquisition of water and by agreement in areas of significant environmental risk.