Regulating ag not the solution for the Reef.

The Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) and industry members are frustrated and disappointed following the passing of legislation that will see a greater regulatory burden placed on Queensland’s farmers while not guaranteeing any benefits for the Great Barrier Reef. 

The Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 places yet another layer of responsibility onto farmers and will stifle much needed flexibility and sustainable growth in several established agricultural industries and communities across the Reef catchments.

QFF President Stuart Armitage said while no one is questioning the value of the Great Barrier Reef or that we must do what we can to extend its adaptation window in the face of climate change, which is its greatest threat, it was unfortunate that the government viewed regulation as a cheap and effective option for such a complex problem.

“The Reef is one of the most spectacular and complex natural systems on earth. Couple that with complex farming systems and the changing climate, we need collaborative partnerships that deliver a sophisticated and properly resourced response if we want to improve the quality of water entering the Reef lagoon,” Mr Armitage said. 

“The 2017 Scientific Consensus Statement for the Great Barrier Reef, which underpins the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan, emphasises finding collaborative solutions for farmers, industry and scientists.” 

“The government’s blunt regulatory strategy is eroding the spirit of cooperation the Consensus Statement focused on when defining the best path to accelerated adoption of best practice and the resulting impact on improved water quality. Understandably, many farmers will be disillusioned and deflated by the approach the government is taking.”

“We acknowledge the government has addressed some of our concerns with the Bill and is proposing to incorporate amendments to the regulations that sit under it. However, with the head of power remaining in the Bill, the regulations can be amended by the Environment Minister at any time so does not provide adequate certainty for farmers.”

“We also understand the LNP Opposition was prevented from putting forward sensible amendments to the Bill that addressed our concerns.”

“Agriculture has been and remains committed to doing its bit for the Reef. Over the past few years there has been an exponential increase of farmer participation in Best Management Practice and other voluntary practice improvement programs, and for every dollar government invests, farmers on average are investing about $1.60.”

“We remain firmly of the view that applying a blanket approach to regulating agricultural activities across all six Reef regions at the expense of true practice change will not realise the best environmental, social and economic outcomes for the Reef, farmers or Reef catchment communities.”

Source: QFF

Changes to the Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 – a synopsis.

QDO Project Officer, Tony Mills undertook the arduous task of reviewing the recently announced changes to the Environmental Protection Bill and how it will or may impact the dairy industry within reef catchments. Tony’s synopsis is below:

The focus remains on improving the water quality of the Great Barrier Reef which is one of the Queensland Governments six priorities under Our Future State: Advancing Queensland’s Priorities. The key focus is practices that will limit runoff from land-based agricultural and industrial land uses.

This bill covers the following acts:

  • Biodiversity Act 2004

  • Chemical Usage (Agricultural & Veterinary) Control Act 1988

  • Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EPA – 1994)

  • Fisheries Act 1994

  • Nature Conservation Act 1992

  • Vegetation Management Act 1999

 The acts with amendments made relevant to agricultural production are:

  • Chemical Usage (Agricultural & Veterinary) Control Act 1988

  • Environmental Protection Act 1994

  • Vegetation Management Act 1999

  • This bill will update and amend several key words and definitions relevant to each act and has been broadened to include all key agricultural sectors which includes Bananas, horticulture, grains, sugarcane and grazing (Beef);

  • Research and advice sought into the bill amendments has confirmed that the Dairy Industry continues to be considered a low risk and low impact agricultural environmentally relevant activity (Agriculture ERA);

  • Our vigilance towards self-regulation remains a cornerstone to minimising the impact as well as continually working towards applying innovation and good management decision in those on-farm practices that influence nutrient runoff and sediment load.

Reef regulations a step back for ag sector.

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The Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) and industry members are frustrated following the introduction of new reef catchment regulations that will further restrict farmers as they struggle to recover from natural disasters and low commodity prices in some industries.

The Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 will see a greater regulatory burden placed on Queensland’s farmers while not guaranteeing any benefits for the Great Barrier Reef.

QFF President Stuart Armitage said QFF and its members remain opposed to the regulation of agricultural activities as described in the Bill. Regulation is a high cost, simplistic instrument that supports minimum standards of compliance at the expense of true practice change and does little to encourage a culture of innovation and excellence.

“Farmers continue to embrace practice change and make on-farm improvements to minimise soil loss, better manage fertiliser use and reduce pesticide runoff from their farms to safeguard the future of the Reef,” Mr Armitage said.

“These important actions are making huge improvements to the quality of the water leaving the farm and significantly contributing to the health of the Reef.”

“Despite the indisputable fact that the water quality targets set are very ambitious and grossly underfunded, governments have still invested considerable resources in voluntary management improvement programs, such as the Reef Alliance’s Growing a Great Barrier Reef project.”

“These programs are now starting to deliver results and they have good buy in from farmers. Increasing regulation is likely to undermine this momentum and will come at significant cost. It would be far better to invest that additional cost in existing voluntary programs that are working.”

“Just a few months ago government, industry and communities celebrated some of the outstanding efforts and achievements by farmers to improve the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef under these programs.”

“If passed, the Bill will stifle much needed flexibility and sustainable growth in several established agricultural industries across the reef catchments including sugarcane, horticulture, grazing and grains.”

“Our sector continues to do its bit to deliver on community expectations and give the Reef its best chance of survival in the face of climate change. This legislation is not a step in the right direction.” 

Source: QFF