Major adjustments for CQ farmers
A STEEP learning curve is ahead for Central Queensland farmers as they adjust to the new minimum standards required for the State Government’s Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill.
Passed in parliament on September 19, the Bill’s regulations set minimum practice agricultural standards for all sugarcane, beef cattle grazing, banana, grains and horticulture production in five of the six Reef regions which includes cattle graziers in the Fitzroy region.
Queensland Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Hon Leeanne Enoch said this Bill is all based on science, which has repeatedly shown that regulations are urgently needed to improve water quality.
“We know there are some farmers who have been voluntarily changing their practices to reduce run-off,” Hon Enoch said.
“However, unfortunately, the uptake of these practices has not been fast enough.
“Under the previous Grazing Best Management Practice program, only 73 farmers in Reef Catchments were accredited as meeting the minimum standards. This represented only 1% out of all graziers across Reef Catchments, or 2.7% of grazing land.
“This is why reef regulations are needed.”
AgForce Central Region president John Baker said that some of the proposed regulated practice standards are unfeasible for drought-stricken producers.
“I think the biggest one is that if you’ve got land identified as degraded or poor then you need a management plan to reinstate that land back to good or fair condition,” Mr Baker said.
“In some instances it will be degraded and then to improve it’s condition will need mechanical intervention which in some instances the Vegetation Management Act will override and say you can’t do that.
“How the government will judge those areas and determine if someone has to get ground cover on that land and how producers would do that, well I don’t know.”
In response, a Department of Environment and Science (DES) spokesperson said, “Minimum practice agricultural standards make provision for particular land types that typically have low levels of ground cover.”
“Given the current drought affecting large portions of the state, some areas of land may take time to be returned to fair or good condition.”
The DES also clarified that for grazing in the Fitzroy region, minimum practice agricultural standards are scheduled to commence two years after the Act comes into effect, most likely in December 2021.
“The new regulations are being developed by the DES, in consultation with industry,” DES spokesperson said.
“Once finalised, there will be staged roll-out period of three years to provide further opportunity for farmers to understand these requirements and transition as necessary.”
“Until the minimum standards are finalised it’s a big problem that we don’t know the full extent of it,” Mr Baker said.
“If the standards are regimented and at this date you need to be above a certain standard, it’ll be too difficult.
“If it’s a gradual implemetation where people have time to work on it then it’ll likely work.”
Further information is available at www.qld.gov.au/reefregulations.