Farm programs not red tape drive best results for Reef

Farm programs not red tape drive best results for Reef
November 7 2017

Farm programs, not red tape, drive best results for Reef

Queensland’s farm leaders have joined forces to call on the next state government to back industry programs, rather than bureaucratic intervention, as the best way to improve water quality for the Great Barrier Reef.

CANEGROWERS Chairman Paul Schembri has hosted AgForce General President Grant Maudsley and Queensland Farmers Federation President Stuart Armitage on his Mackay sugarcane farm today.

“We’re standing together today because we are united in the belief that our industry best management practice (BMP) programs are the most effective way for farmers to help the Reef,” Mr Schembri said.

“Over-zealous regulations, reaching down to interfere with a farmers’ day to day work on the land, place a restrictive red tape burden on industry. Regulations promote a minimum standard but our cooperative farm improvement programs encourage continual innovation and pride.

“The major parties campaigning in this State Election have been supportive of our sugarcane industry Smartcane BMP program and we urge them to now take the next step of giving industry the responsibility of driving the future of our relationship with the Reef.

“It is a challenge but as an industry we are up for it,” Mr Schembri said

Mr Schembri, who farms with his brother Joe at Farleigh, is accredited under Smartcane BMP’s three core water quality modules.

“We all love where we live and we also want to have profitable and productive businesses. Fortunately, the economic and sustainability drivers line up. Good outcomes for the environment mean good outcomes for farm profitability.

“70% of Queensland’s cane farming area, owned by 1,634 businesses, is now benchmarked in the Smartcane BMP program and half of the growers involved say it’s led to improvements in their farming practices.

“17% of cane farming businesses in Queensland are accredited, like mine, as operating at or above industry best practice. In the Wet Tropics region, the figure is 35%.

“This program is working because it is industry-driven. The big stick of government regulation could not achieve such a high level of engagement.

“Money spent on compliance would be better targeted towards partnerships between farmers and government.”

CANEGROWERS is calling on the next Queensland Government to back away from regulation and commit $7.2 million to supporting Smartcane BMP over the next four years to assist growers to meet water quality targets for the whole community.