A very important role of CANEGROWERS is amplifying the voice of individual Queensland sugarcane growers. Backed by the weight of numbers of members in every region, including my home district of Mackay, we can ensure our collective voice is heard by those in power.
Over the past month, CANEGROWERS elected representatives and staff have had meetings with five State and Federal government ministers, most of them new to their role because of the Queensland election and a national cabinet reshuffle.
While they don’t always agree with us or do what we ask, it is important that in Brisbane and Canberra, our issues, concerns and perspective are put on the table by us.
At each meeting we have extended an invitation to visit our farms, to see us in our businesses and communities and understand first-hand how we operate.
Sometimes, they come to us as the new Trade Minister Dan Tehan did recently. He met with a group of grower leaders on a Mackay region cane farm to talk about trade agreement negotiations and the Australian case against Indian sugar subsidies being heard in the World Trade Organisation.
With 85% of Queensland’s sugar production destined for export markets, we have a lot riding on the outcome of both!
When I talk to CANEGROWERS members, the issues most often raised are the need to demonstrate our environmental credentials and the burden of reef regulations.
Recently I met with the new Queensland Minister for the Environment and Great Barrier Reef, Meaghan Scanlon. I explained how the new approval process for new cropping areas in reef catchments was a duplication of existing regulations and that the misrepresentation of industry adoption of best practices in the Reef Report Cards was unfair and demoralising.
Within days of the meeting, while releasing the 2019 Report Card, the Minister announced that a review of the reef reporting process and the associated farm management targets would be undertaken this year in close consultation with CANEGROWERS.
That announcement was made in conjunction with the Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley because reef policy is jointly managed by both the Queensland and Australian governments.
I have since had the opportunity to follow up the announcement with a discussion with Ms Ley in Canberra where I explained how the targets are pushing growers to unproductive levels of fertiliser use, below even the best practice advice of the industry SIX EASY STEPS calculations.
While in the capital, along with CANEGROWERS CEO Dan Galligan, I also met with the Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, briefing him too on the issues for industry in reef policy, trade and our vision for the future.
This vision of new opportunities ties in to the State Government’s own strategy for bioenergy and other bio industry development – a point made to the Queensland Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen Mick de Brenni by CANEGROWERS representatives during a briefing in Brisbane during which the impact of electricity and water pricing decisions was also explained.
The fortunes of our farms, our communities and our industry are very dependent on government policy and decisions. That’s why in every forum, at every opportunity, CANEGROWERS raises the concerns and explains the perspectives of Queensland sugarcane growers and we hope that our messages get through.