Unravelling the new Reef regulations

Unravelling the new Reef regulations

Unravelling the new Reef regulations

All December 2019 updates to the Queensland Government’s sugarcane farming regulations have taken effect. 
What does that mean for growers? 
It depends on the location of your farm and whether you have Smartcane BMP accreditation.

CANEGROWERS has prepared this snapshot of the current legal obligations for sugarcane growers in Queensland but growers are also urged to be familiar with the guidelines developed by the Queensland Government and available online www.qld.gov.au/ReefRegulations 

The new regulations relate to:


What does it mean for me?

It depends on your location and if you are Smartcane BMP accredited.

All growers, from the Burnett-Mary region to Mossman, are required to meet the general record-keeping requirements and the permit requirements for developing ‘new’ cropping land. All growers, except for those south of the Mackay/Plane Creek region, also need to meet the minimum practice standards for sugarcane which includes an annual N and P budget.  Burnett-Mary growers will need to meet the minimum standard conditions from the end of 2022.

Smartcane BMP accredited growers are recognised by the Queensland Government as meeting all their legal obligations for management of cane crops, including the general record-keeping and the minimum practice standards (including the need for an N and P budget). Accredited growers do not need to engage an appropriate person (someone external to the business with agronomic qualifications) to develop and sign-off on their N and P budget. Accredited growers will not be targeted for compliance visits by Departmental officers.


General record-keeping

This includes the making of records for applications of agricultural chemicals and fertiliser products. The records must include the farm number, block number, date, product name, and rate applied.  Records for application of fertilisers that contain N or P must also include the percentage of N and P in the product.


Minimum practice standards including a farm N and P budget

The minimum practice standards include:

  • No broadcast application of fertiliser containing N and/or P
  • Taking measures to minimise erosion and sediment run-off, including having surface cover on fallow blocks
  • Ensuring fallow blocks have some form of surface cover
  • Starting in the 2022 calendar year (for growers north of the Burnett-Mary), application of N or P fertilisers should not commence before the preparation of a so-called ‘N and P budget’. This is an umbrella term which includes soil testing, calculation of N and P rates and block by block record-keeping as well as:
    1. Identifying any soil constraints (if present).
    2. Identifying management zones (if these are used to plan your fertiliser program).
    3. Calculating the total amounts of N and P that can be applied to the whole farm (summing up the regulated amounts for each block). These totals are the farm caps on N and P.
    4. Developing a fertiliser plan for N and P, ensuring that this will not result in the whole-farm amounts exceeding the caps for the farm.
    5. Having this verified by an 'appropriate person' (someone independent of the farm business who has agronomic expertise).
  • At the end of each calendar year, growers must calculate the total amounts of N and P applied to the farm, using their records of application. These totals must not exceed the totals calculated at the start of the year.
  • The N and P budget process is repeated in each year. Input and verification by an appropriate person is required for the first budget and every five years thereafter.


Permits for developing 'new’ cropping activity

Any grower wanting to develop an area of ‘new’ land of more than 5 ha for cropping or horticulture must now apply for a permit from the Department of Environment and Science. New cropping land is defined as any area that has not been cropped for a least three of the previous 10 years.

Areas less than 100 ha require completion of an application form and payment of a fee, while areas greater than 100 ha require a more detailed site-specific application as well as the fee. The application forms and guidelines can be found here: www.qld.gov.au/environment/agriculture/sustainable-farming/reef/reef-regulations/producers/cropping


Please make sure you are familiar with the specifics of your legal obligations under the new reef regulations at  www.qld.gov.au/ReefRegulations